Sunday, July 19, 2009

Not At Nationals - Common Romance Writing Mistakes Pt 12.


Missed Part Eleven of this Mini-Workshop? You can find it here

  • Too Many Cooks:

“Usually it’s a mistake to seek advice from other amateurs at writer’s clubs. I don’t think it’s a good idea to ask family
or friends to read and ‘criticize’ your manuscript either.” That’s what The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes says. And it flies in the face of something the romance writing community relies pretty heavily on; CRITIQUE PARTNERS.

What we have to remember is that the romance writing community stands out of the crowd in this area. No other genre of writing shares information and helps out fellow writers both published and unpublished quite the same way we do. It’s something we’re very proud of. Something that has brought many, many new writer’s to publication. Something that
supplies a vital support network for what is basically a very isolated and sometimes lonely working life. So is the book saying we’re wrong to do what we do? Not quite…

It goes on to say; “I have nothing against clubs of writers. I belong to a couple myself and sometimes attend meetings. They provide companionship, a place to meet others involved in the same kind of fascinating work, sometimes sources of market and other information, and new friends.

Far too many of them, however, encourage members to read their copy aloud for group dissection and discussion. This is always a waste of time. Reading your copy aloud is not the normal ‘delivery
system’ for a story. It’s written to be read in print, not read aloud by the author.”

Aha, you may think, this isn’t the same thing at all - which was my initial reaction. But then I thought some more, and from my point of view, there's a certain irony to this, particularly when it comes to reading excerpts out loud. In the romance writing community, from my experience and in a country where we don't have chapters the way the RWA does, this tends to be something we’re asked to do AFTER we’re published. I’ve been asked to do this a LOT in the last couple of years - at readers days, on radio interviews, etc. - and up until very, very recently, I politely refused. Now in fairness, up until recently, people always managed to ask me to read aloud from one of my Modern Heats, and you can imagine my dilemma with THAT.
What happened the first time they asked me to do it and I politely refused? They had a ‘local celebrity’ read an excerpt from one of my books instead. To the background music of ‘Je t’aime’ – complete with melodramatic sighs. It was humiliating quite frankly. And I’d been given no warning they were about to do it. Not a happy camper. Next time I was asked was at a Literary Festival. Again I declined and this time they were more respectful about it and let’s face facts here – it’s not like I’m ever short of something to say… But then came the week I got cornered into it during a radio interview - live on air. I HAD planned to try it with an excerpt from one of my Romance line books from last year, but the only excerpt I could think of was longer than the two minutes they wanted so I chose something shorter from Manhattan Boss, Diamond Proposal. But despite the fact I’d created, edited, revised, read and re-read the book at least a couple of dozen times collectively – I flubbed certain words and ended up feeling like an idiot. So it was the first and last time it will ever happen. As a good author friend of mine says – we’re not performing monkeys. And if I feel like this as a multi-published author in situations where I’m not likely to be critiqued, can you imagine what reading an excerpt out loud in front of people who ARE gonna critique me is gonna do to that delicate ego we talked about all authors having? We’re not in High School any more. We’re adults. So my advice? DON’T DO IT unless you're COMPLETELY COMFORTABLE with what you're being asked to do.

The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes goes on to explain; “Also, whether you read your copy aloud to club members or circulate copies to them, your club audience is in no way a normal audience of the kind you want to please. There are people here who have failed and are bitter. There are others here to show off. There are others who are here for a chance to pontificate. There are know-it-alls and know-nothings. If your work is good, many of them will be jealous. If your work is bad, few, if any of them will know how to point out your mistakes in a constructive manner.

There are not likely to be any honest critical responses to your work. Club members generally try to be as gentle and positive as family members. A few, perhaps in reaction, crucify every member. In neither case do you get anything like an objective reaction.”


But the romance writing community thrives on CRITIQUE PARTNERS I hear you cry! You’re right, it does, even for published authors. But look more closely at what the book is saying and I think you’ll realize it isn’t talking about what we know as a CP. It’s talking about TOO MANY OF THEM. And this, my friends, is another common mistake made by new writers tryi
ng to break into the romance writing business. Because you know that saying about too many cooks? It’s SO RELEVANT when it comes to asking for help or advice with your writing. Because too many critiques or words of advice = dilution of YOUR VOICE. And THAT is a serious problem. Because it’s YOUR VOICE that stands you out of the crowd to begin with and no-one but you has that unique ‘signature’. You may be likened to another author when you’re published to try and ‘hit’ a particular portion of the marketplace (and it may be a great compliment), but you are still YOU. And what is the most common thing that will sell a romance novel once it's in print and you have a few titles under your belt? THE AUTHORS NAME. Some authors will become what readers call an ‘AUTO-BUY’ – they see that authors name on the cover and that’s all they need to know when they’re in a hurry. And speaking as someone who has never been likened to another author (actually that’s a lie a reviewer once said fans of Jennifer Cruisie and Lori Foster would enjoy my books – but that’s not quite the same as saying I write like them and let’s face it – with names like that – am I likely to COMPLAIN?!) I can still stand over the statement that it’s all about VOICE. There is only one Trish Wylie (I’ll let you decide if that’s a loss or a gain for the world). Why? Because I write for ME. I just happen to be lucky enough that there are people out there who would read what I would read. But I don’t EVER and HAVE NEVER read another author’s work and tried to copy their style and I’ve only ever had a couple of people read my work since I got published, and even then it was in times of severe doubt and it was fellow published authors who knew my work and me and whose opinions I not only trusted and respected, but who DIDN’T TRY TO CHANGE MY VOICE.

So that brings us to: ‘What is Voice?’ and; ‘What does a CP do?’ ‘VOICE’ to me, is exactly what it says ‘on the tin’. Many, many people who know me or meet me in real life say they can ‘hear’ my voice in my books. If you enjoy my books as a reader, there’s a good chance you and I will get on in real life (and not just for the obvious reason that you liked my book – though obviously that makes me love you MORE). I talk the way my characters would talk, I think the way my characters would think, I see the world – for the most part – the way my characters would view it (and even if I don’t, I can understand it and debate it). Why are my thoughts and feelings similar to my characters? Because we share COMMON UNIVERSAL TRAITS. Why can people ‘recognize me’ from my books and vice-versa? If I had to guess, I'd say it's because when I write dialogue, I write it in a way that places me in the conversation or is similar to a conversation I might hear or have had in the past. The world of my characters becomes so real to me that I can place myself in either of their shoes and ‘be them’ in any given moment. Sometimes I even rehearse scenes out loud, taking turns at speaking the dialogue and pretending I’m them the way an actor or an actress would absorb themselves in a ‘part’. The books have my opinions on some things, some of my personal observations and yes – some of my experiences. I bleed on the page where necessary and there’s not a single doubt in the world that it’s my sense of humour. All of that adds up to a VOICE that is individual to me. It’s part of my creative process. It’s RIGHT BRAIN stuff.

What a CP does, is LEFT BRAIN stuff. They are part of the EDITING PROCESS. They are there to make sure that things MAKE SENSE. And if they’re a published author then they’re there to tell you whether or not they think your story fits into the line/category you’re aiming for. Think of a CP as a TECHNICAL ADVISOR. Someone who at the very least, reads the kind of books you’re aiming to write and therefore knows what they enjoy. This person does NOT tell you WHAT TO DO – they MAKE SUGGESTIONS and should TALK THEM THROUGH WITH YOU so that you understand WHY they’re making those suggestions. Whether or not you choose to take that advice is up to you. Whether or not you use a particular suggestion or have your own take on it is up to you. And what working with a CP does is it prepares you for working through REVISIONS with an EDITOR. Because basically, it’s exactly the same thing. When an editor sends you a revisions letter or email, she is making SUGGESTIONS to improve the story. How you interpret that letter is up to you. Because, as the saying goes, possession is nine tenths of the law – it’s YOUR STORY. Neither an editor nor a CP would or should try to change your voice. What they will or shall do, is try to make it a BETTER STORY. An author/editor relationship is the professional version of a writer/CP relationship. It’s a partnership that works together to make your story the best it can be. It is NOT one person forcing their opinions on another until the author/writer’s voice is lost. If it is, then it’s a relationship that isn’t working and it means there’s gonna have to be a little talk at some point. It is also a one-on-one relationship; the more CP’s you have the more chances there are of getting so much ‘help’ you’re even more confused than you were before!

The book gives examples of this at a club meeting and says; “At the first meeting, somebody sniggered while she read her copy.

At the second, someone else cried while she read other pages.

At the third, the vice-president said the ending of the story reminded her of Chekov; she pronounced it ‘great’.

At the fourth meeting, after studying the revised story, someone suggested sharply trimming the dialogue; someone else stood up and said the story needed more dialogue.

At the fifth meeting – well, perhaps you get the idea.”


Now change those meetings to critique partners and you’ll get where I’m going here. This is another of the most common of common mistakes writers starting out on the road to publication make. And it comes back to that delicate ego and the need for validation I talked about all authors needing. Add that to how willing the romance writing community is to help out
and it’s very easy to fall into the trap of asking for too much advice from too many people. Say you had a finished manuscript and five or six people had the reactions on that list or gave you five or six different pieces of advice, some of them conflicting, and you follow each and every one of them, will you even recognize your manuscript at the end? Whose voice will it have by then? Will you see things clearer or are you likely to be even more confused and filled with doubt than you were before? Too many cooks. See what I mean?

Bottom line is, if you’re uncertain about something then by all means ask for advice (preferably from a professional) and if in doubt, don’t take the advice of just one person. But at the same time, when that advice or a large portion of it is the same from more than one person then take it as read. Look for the commonalities in the advice you’re given. Go with the majority. Because that’s where the truth tends to lie.

The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes is also against writing competitions for critiques; “You know how these work. Three judges are (secretly) recruited for various contest categories such as short story, novel, chapter and so on. You prepare your entry pages with no hint of your identity, and an official removes your identifying entry form, codes it and your manuscript with a matching ID number, and then passes our entry along to the judges, who read, rank, and comment in turn. After the smoke clears, you may win a first, second or third prize, or even an honourable mention, in your category. There may be
a small cash prize involved. Even if you don’t win, you’re at least get back the written comments of the judges.

Presumably these comments help you improve your work.

Maybe sometimes they do. But in my experience, which is not narrow, the comments and advice from judges can vary as widely – and wildly – as comments from the club meeting floor after a reading. One judge will tell you to build up your scenes, and the next will tell you to cut them. One will praise your descriptive passages, and the next will suggest cutting them. One will wax poetic about how wonderful your plot is, and the next may say she couldn’t find a plot at all.


In earlier and more innocent years I helped judge a number of fiction contests myself. Like all judges, I put an incredible amount of time into the job, and tried my level best to be both critical and helpful. But there is a nasty little secret about writing anonymous comments and suggestions to an anonymous writer out there somewhere. In most cases, the advice cannot possibly fix the problem.”

Now. I agree and disagree with this, and I’ll tell you why. From what I can see the author of this book is talking about the judging of partials, not full manuscripts. So from that point of
view I think he’s absolutely right. Judging a small, random part of the full story isn’t necessarily going to end in the kind of advice that will fix the problems of the full manuscript. How could it? The scene/s will be out of context, it won’t show what led the characters to that point or where they were headed after the scene. There's a reason why editors don't buy manuscripts at the partial and synopsis stage. But writing contests like the RNA New Writer’s scheme and the RWA’s Golden Heart combat a large portion of this problem by judging the FULL manuscript. This allows the authors judging the contest to have the full picture, to see things in context and to hand out the kind of critique that can indeed help with the bigger problems. However. The same rules apply to the judge of a contest as a CP or an editor. The comments made are SUGGESTIONS. Granted they are professional suggestions from people who write for a living but there are plenty of variables in there too. Does the judge you got write for or buy the line/category you’re aiming for? Do they like the kind of story you’re trying to tell and would they read that kind of book themselves given the choice? What kind of mood were they in when they judged it? How many similar mistakes had they seen in other manuscripts before they got to yours? I am most certainly NOT saying professional advice should be ignored (and I'll get to that) but the bottom line is the advice is a SUGGESTION to IMPROVE your book. What you do with that advice in revisions is entirely up to you and the buck stops with the editor you submit your manuscript to for a potential sale.

I understand this from both sides of the fence because I’ve entered several contests in my time, and judged books for the RITA. The first writing contest I entered at eighteen didn’t come with a critique. I entered it with four different partials. I sat in the TV Studio audience when it was handed out and I got nowhere. I can remember being completely demoralized at the time and coming home to eat cake and have a weep about it. I quit writing shortly afterwards and didn’t come back to it for over a decade. When I did I went back to one of those manuscripts I’d submitted a partial from to that contest. I re-wrote some of it and revised it and tightened it up. I submitted it and sold after two rounds of revisions. The premise of the story hadn’t changed. Neither had the characters or the setting. If I’d been given a critique on it that said I should change some of those things, would I? Well yes, quite frankly, I probably would. And who knows if it would have sold or languished in a drawer for all eternity? When it comes to judging, I chose categories I knew I would enjoy reading. That gives the books a leg up to begin with. And I didn’t have to hand out a critique with them, but I read them as if I would because otherwise how do I score them? I had to read them with the editing portion of my brain switched on while still allowing the story to engage the reader part of my brain. I had one book that was right up my alley – it had a plot so clever I marvelled at it with every twist and turn and it had characters I genuinely liked and cared about and a hero who was YUM. I’d have scored it way up there if it hadn’t been for one thing. It head hopped to the point of irritation. And once I’d noticed it the first time, I couldn’t stop noticing it. I gave the author the benefit of the doubt and thought maybe it was just her style. She did it a lot. Iif it added to the scene I could give her a bit of a break, but there were times it was completely pointless. So to my great sadness, I had to mark her down for it. Which side of my brain made that decision? The LEFT SIDE that deals with EDITING and therefore CRITIQUE. It was the kind of thing I would have pointed out as a CP. It effected the pacing. It dragged me out of the story. Therefore it was a technical difficulty and nothing to do with her voice. Again, I’m NOT saying that a contest critique can’t be helpful. Many of them can, absolutely they can; particularly when they come from people who have sold or are professionals. But you also have to keep in mind that they’re part of the learning process for a writer; a stepping stone if you will. If you enter the one manuscript in several contests and the same criticisms come back from a selection of judges then obviously it’s the same rule of thumb for advice; the truth lies in the commonalities. Go with the majority. But competitions can be as subjective as reviews in this business. I’ve had back score sheets on my own books for the RITA for instance and the scores may have several eights and even a nine – and then a four or a five. I used to wonder how that happened, what had I done wrong, what could I have fixed, what it was they hated so much? Now I have a win some/lose some attitude. For me, as wonderful as awards can be and as thankful as I am for them - particularly at times when I’m doubting my abilities - the buck STILL stops with my editor and my sales. If my editor hates a book I’m in trouble. Even if she loves it, if my sales are plummeting over the long term then we both have a problem. Everything else, in my opinion, falls under the ‘can’t please all of the people all of the time’ rule. And as a new writer, the same rule of thumb should stand side-by-side with the truth of any advice being in the commonalities and remaining true to your VOICE no matter what.

As The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes says; “At some point, when you have broken into the professional ranks, you will start getting advice of a far different sort: the advice of an editor who knows what she is doing – and who has a checkbook in her hand.

That’s when you listen most attentively.”


Which brings us to...

  • Professional Advice:

The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes starts out by saying: “In the previous chapter we warned against taking too much advice from fellow amateurs, and noted that one day you may get lucky enough to have an editor fall in love with your work and give you sound guidance. There is another possible source of good, face-to-face advice on your own work, and that’s study with a published author who knows how to teach his craft.”

I’ll let you make up your own mind if that last part means me…

It then goes on to talk about professional advice from the point of view of books on the subject of the craft and how it is possible to learn about writing from writing books. And I do agree with this. For the most part. But one of the reasons I had the idea for this workshop, and the thing that has occurred to me time and time again since I started reading books on writing, is that you need to know how to decipher things into ‘romance writing terms’. I guess the only way to highlight this would be for you to get The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes, read it, and see where the lessons I’ve given differ. It’s a great book, honestly one of the better ones I’ve read since I started reading books on writing, but (theoretically) I know what I’m doing, so I can automatically ‘translate’ into romance writing terms and ignore the parts I don’t think are relevant to what I do. For a beginner writer - someone trying to break into the business and learn all they can about writing - it has to be nearly as confusing at times as it would be having all those people giving differing opinions at a writing club. Put it this way. After selling twelve odd books without ever taking a lesson on the subject of writing since High School, I decided I should educate myself a little more in the hope of getting better at what I do and possibly easing my fear of becoming stale by default. Instead, what I did after the third or fourth writing book I read was I became more paranoid a
bout my writing than I’d ever been before. I found myself over-editing and feeling like a fraud because I didn’t follow all the ‘rules’ I was supposed to according to those books. I smothered my imagination in ‘science’ and not long after that, I hit a wall and my writing world became a pretty miserable place to be.

Why? Because part of a professional writer’s ability to tell a story is an intangible. Any writer who is honest will tell you that. There are a lot of things we can explain and teach and hand on, but there comes a point where someone will ask a question and the writer will have to stop for a minute and realize they don’t know the answer. At least not one they can explain. They just do what they do. It’s what I call ‘Fairy Dust’. For me it’s that unexplainable moment where my imagination thinks of a detail – sometimes mid-flow, more likely when I’m mid-way to an exhaustive sleep or caught between a deep sleep and waking up. If it’s when I’m mid-flow the story can take on an angle I had never thought of before and although it won’t change the main arc of the story it will, more often than not, add depth and nuances that make me love what I do. If it’s when I’m horizontal, a little voice in my head will NOT shut up until I do something about it and I’ve been known to kick off the duvet in annoyance to go turn my laptop back on just to add it in. Sometimes I’m lucky enough that rehearsing the scene in my head with the new detail in it is enough (though there’s always the fear I won’t remember it so nine times out of ten I make the effort to get up) but I’ve also got into the habit of keeping a pen and pad of paper in my bedside drawer… just in case…

Too much education, I’ve discovered, has a negative effect on that fairy dust element. And since reading The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes I think it’s another case of left brain versus right brain. The ‘fairy dust’ has to be right brain stuff – thinking about things like structure and editing and all the things a writing book will teach me falls into the realm of left brain stuff. So what I have to do when I read a book on craft is leave it behind when I’m writing, and then think about the tips I thought might be useful when I’m EDITING. So, as stupid as it may seem when I’ve spent all this time doing these lessons, I have to say that once you’ve read them and thought about them and processed the information that is useful to you; forget them while you TELL THE STORY. The same thing applies with any professional writers workshops you attend or do online. But with a professional writer who is literally out there doing what you are aiming to do you should be paying attention. Not all of them will view things the same way but there WILL be commonalities, and if something isn’t clear then you ASK. It’s why things like conferences and talks and writing retreats and workshops you attend face-to-face are so valuable. Because apart from the fact there’s something wonderful about being surrounded by like-minded people, no-one is going to think your questions are stupid – even if they’ve been asked a million times before. We all started in the same place and I still remember the advice I was given by published authors when I started out. Remember how lucky we all are that we’re part of the romance writing community. Look at how writers are supported online as they start out, as they learn, as they go through the process of completing their first manuscript and editing and submitting and rejections. Heck, look at how everyone celebrates when someone SELLS! So don’t ever feel like you’re an idiot for not getting something or for making the same mistakes or for asking the same question a few times before you really ‘get it’. As isolated as a writers life is, you are NOT ALONE.

When you do find that editor who loves your work, any lessons you learned from pr
ofessionals or new authors or from working with a reliable CP, will start to pay off. For example, just to show I STILL don't get it right first time out, here's a brief excerpt of the kind of suggestions my editor made for revisions on what became One Night With The Rebel Billionaire;

“...the feeling is that Adam still needs some work. Or rather, he needs to be allowed to be who he is. Adam is a pretty hot alpha male! Yet, it seems as though everyone around him is trying to bring him down. The worry is that you are too. These suggestions are to allow him to be who he needs to be to let the reader indulge in her fantasy. The important thing to remember here is that Modern Heat books are primarily about the fantasy - the hero. Of cours
e the heroine can be sassy and cool, but not at the expense of the hero. In MH the reader comes to the story for him! So, what you need to do is allow the reader her fantasy. I’ve highlighted the sections where this is most noticeable, but in essence it’s about altering the view you have of him in your head – give him some of his control back, rather than letting the heroine become the alpha of the story.”

Has she told me what to do? Well, yes and no. She’s highlighted where she sees a problem, she’s explained what she thinks that problem is and how it should be approached, but she hasn’t said what I should do verbatim. It’s up to me as the writer, to take her suggestions and adjust my manuscript accordingly. But at the same time, this is someone who does this for a LIVING (and who holds my career in the palm of her hands). I’m going to listen to what she says, I’m going to take it on board and if there’s something I think she hasn’t quite got the way I meant it then I'm at fault and I need to look at WHY she didn’t get it, because that’s my job. An editor is on the side of the writer she’s working with and she’s handing out advise in the form of revisions to make the book as strong and as sellable as possible. One of the nicest, and most reassurring things I ever heard was that Harlequin M&B doesn't buy books; they invest in authors. And having someone work side by side with you with the amount of patience, understanding and humour my editor does is testimony to that fact. A good Editor is worth their weight in GOLD. In this case I realized from her suggestions that I had to stop feeling the need to rein back how alpha Adam, my hero, was. There were times in the original manuscript when I felt he was too tough or too surly or too arrogant, so I felt I had to justify his actions – almost as if I was explaining why he was that way or I felt I had to apologize for him - when realistically Adam was not the kind of guy who would makes excuses or apologies. He was what he was. I had to let him BE THAT and make sure that it made SENSE. What she then did was go into more detail so I understood where the problem was most visible;

“Let’s start with Chapter 2, in the plane - His fear of flying is a great asset to show the facets of his character. However, this scene still needs some work. Predominantly it’s because he softens too early, and so the suggestion would be to cut down on his internal thoughts. Show us his actions, but perhaps not his emotions. Also, as we have that great scene later when she seduces him in the cockpit, the feeling is that you need to cut down on the flight descriptions here, to stop it becoming repetitive later on, and instead focus on the closeness and awareness between them.”

So what did I do? I went back to that scene, re-read it, re-read her notes again and then adjusted the scene accordingly. I cut some of the internal dialogue (INNER POV) I knew was mentioned again later in the story. Basically I tightened it up the way my lovely editor had suggested. I did it my way, based on her notes. It didn’t effect my voice or the story that was being told; I respected her opinion and acted on it and the book was all the better for it! All my revisions will be like this. I’ll work through them in order and tick them off as I do them. For the most part I’m using LEFT BRAIN skills. But then every now and again she’ll make a suggestion that involves me using RIGHT BRAIN skills again;

“p.56 – When he says ‘Just something for you to think about’, it’s amazing. I was aghast at his behaviour! It would be nice to see the heroine similarly so, rather than ready with her quick retort. No one’s ever made her feel like that before, perhaps she’s just left spluttering, trying to form words to reply, and then he leaves her. That would allow him to keep his control and wickedness, show her loss for words and in essence her inexperience and close the chapter nicely. Rather than needing to go on to explain it on p.57, and in doing so losing that magic tension. Remember, that however sassy she is, it’s her sexual attraction to him that is his trump card. She is lost when that power truly exerts itself because she doesn’t know how to handle it. Let her be out of control every now and then, in order for the reader to be endeared by her.”

Originally the scene had more dialogue and inner POV, but when I went back I edited a lot of that out and then engaged the right side of my brain to add a few lines about the heroine’s emotions and her reaction to the kiss. Adam completely caught her off-guard - my editor was right (as she so often is thank heavens!) - and Adam had the upper hand. But instead of taking that power away from him again, I had to let him have that moment and show it in my heroine’s reactions. My editor made the SUGGESTION and how I dealt with it was up to me…

As I said in the last subject, an author/editor relationship is the professional version of a writer/CP relationship. It’s a partnership that works together to make your story the best it can be. It is NOT one person forcing their opinions on another until the author/writer’s voice becomes lost. It is also a one-on-one relationship; the more CP’s you have the more chances there are of getting so much ‘help’ you’re even more confused than you were before! But an editor/author relationship is a one-on-one PROFESSIONAL relationship and therefore any suggestions that are made should be treated with a great deal of respect and acted on. There is the very rare occasion when the relationship doesn’t work but again it’s usually something that can be solved with an open and honest talk. You BOTH want the BEST BOOK possible. You’re on the same side. Like I've said; the beauty of Harlequin Mills & Boon’s London offices is that they’re a really friendly, enthusiastic team. They invest in AUTHORS and as such spend a lot of time creating productive relationships. They WANT to find the next great author, it’s a source of great pride to them and a bit of a competition sometimes to see who can find the best one from the slush pile. But at the same time they are also human, so mobbing them at conferences and workshops and talks can be as intimidating for them as it is for the people trying to talk to them. Respect is the keyword. Pushing a manuscript under the door of a public toilet or trying to pitch a book to an editor doing laps of a hotel pool isn’t the time to do it. And no, those aren’t made up examples…

As The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes sums up: “There are things about the workings of the imagination and the creative process that are indeed mysterious. But most of the craft of writing can be taught, and it can be learned.

All it takes is someone who knows what he’s doing, at one end of the dialogue, and someone who is truly willing to listen and try, at the other.”


  • CHECK BACK LATER for more of this 'mini-workshop' and remember to LET ME KNOW if you're Blogging something for those of us Not At Nationals so I can add a link to the sidebar! Got questions about anything in the Blog just ask in the comments and I'll do my best to answer them ;)
(You can now Move on to Part Thirteen of this Mini-Workshop here.)

1 comment:

tamelia said...

Wow! This is an amazing tip. I'll admit I'm one of those people who really need everything spelled out at least at first. Seeing examples of what editors need or want during revisions helps sooo much. I can usually "get" it after that, but I have to visually be told- page such and such he needs more strength or page such and such we need to see her (fill in the blank here) side. Seeing examples from your blog helps all that click into place. I know editors won't hold your hand and walk you through every scene of course, but a little direction goes a long way. :) Thanks for the examples. I'd love to see more if you post some sometime.