Friday, February 27, 2015

When It Rains, It Pours - This Is The World Of Publishing

We have all heard the common phrase, "when it rains, it pours" and I have to say, publishing is clearly one of those businesses where this phrase feels common pretty much every day. Editors,
agents, writers, art directors, line and copy editors, contract departments, you name it, all feel this on a pretty regular basis. If you are an author feeling exceptionally stressed right now and want to scream, "You just don't get it!" believe me, we do!

I have had friends ask me how things are going and a common response is, "I think my authors know when the other authors need something because they all start asking at the same time." As I write this, I have revisions for one author, contract reviews on 4 others, submission material that is due to an editor ASAP and another full manuscript that needs to be read with editorial notes. For me, reading late into the night sucks because my brain is too tired. I honestly tried last night but I dozed off.

Of course there will be other times when things just flow perfectly. You have time to write. The kids don't bug you. Your writing is coming out of your brain and on to the page like a fresh moving mountain river. Enjoy it.

As some of you know, I teach some adjunct classes at a local community college. I had a student who, through her lack of computer knowledge, turned in an assignment with a file that I couldn't open (don't even get me started on Freeware software). In any case, that was 3 days ago. When she turned in the assignment the first time, I immediately got back to her to have her resubmit it. She finally did yesterday afternoon. I opened up my email this morning (5:15 am) and she had emailed by 6 pm yesterday wondering what the delay was for getting the grade completed. REALLY?

My response was that the grade would get done AFTER all of the other work that was due today would get finished. In other words, she got bumped to the bottom of the pile.

Why do I bring this up? No, this is not an issue of not following directions, it is, instead, an issue of how we all have piles of work to get through and we will get there, when we get there. If you are an author who does complain, or has complained about the speed of publishing, remember that those editors and agents are frequently in the same situation you are in. We all have those days, weeks and months where we feel our "TO DO LISTS" are endless.

But we will get through it. I promise you.

As for me, I am off to the next item on my list.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

How I Read A Submission

I am betting I am not alone on this when it comes to reading submissions, but the approach I take is probably not the same as for an author reading a project. I thought I would give you a bit of an insight into how I look at those partials I request. I have talked through the whole submission process here on the blog in the past but today, we'll look at simply the partial.

Because I don't ask for any material other than a query, we have to assume there was something about the premise of the story that intrigued me enough to want to see more of your project. So I request a partial. This is pretty much standard procedure unless you really wowed me with that proposal and I ask for a full manuscript.

Now, here is where the reading is different from how you read your project. When you read a story, you take your time through it. You slowly process all you have written. You look at the language, the word choice, and the phrasing. You might go back and re-read a passage. You might even read it through several times before you get to the point when you can make a decision about it. This is probably the same approach you take when reading for contests or critiques.

For these partials, I don't linger over the stories this much. I read it like a reader would read it. I pick it up and dive into it. You better hook me and do it fast. I don't contemplate it and dissect it.

I take this approach because, in all honesty, this is how the readers of the world deal with your books. Because they aren't writers, they are probably not into a detailed dissection and analysis of the story like you are.

But please, do not panic. I am not just rushing through the stories and tossing the projects aside. Let's assume you do hook me. Let's assume, like a reader, you have me wanting to read more. When this happens, I go back and review it again. It is at this point I start thinking about the over-all quality of the work. It is now when I start determining what it was about the project that hooked me. Was it really the quality of the writing and the potential it showed, or was it something superficial that might not make it a book that can sell.

If now, after that second (and third or forth reading) you still have me hooked, I will ask for more. And, hopefully, when that project shows up, you are still keeping me as interested as I was in that first quick read!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Fixing Continuity In Your Stories

Do the things that happen in your chapter 3 or 4 mesh with those things in chapter 17 or 19? You might think the ideas do, but it is amazing how many stories I have read where that continuity is simply not there. Somewhere, between those chapters, you got side-tracked. You started following another theme or idea and ended up in a place where you had not planned on being. Yes, it felt like you were in the right place, and maybe the journey was fun, but it is not where you needed to be.

This is not just an issue with plot either. Too often, writers will have characters say or do things early on in the book, and then, several chapters later, end up doing or saying something that contradicts the earlier comment or action.

Although many authors may say it is not going to be a big issue with their readers, it will be. Your readers are much smarter than you think they are. They pick up on the smallest of details and will turn that into the one epic failure of the book.

So how do you fix this problem? Well, I would say take more time to plot your book and jump on my lectern and scream of the benefits of plotting over being a pantster, but I won't go there right now (just image me screaming though). You can, however, take the time to think. In other words, pay attention to what you write.

As you get ready to dive into chapter 6, think about the prior chapters. The odds are you are starting this chapter days after you finished the prior ones so it will take some time to review that work. Take notes of the chapters. At some level, keep a running chapter by chapter synopsis.

This does work. I have one client who, every now and then, struggles with a plot issue. When that happens, we talk it though and I have her take me chapter by chapter through the story until we reach the problem. Sure enough, the majority of the time, the issue showed up in one of those later chapters where there was a continuity issue.

I really want to open this one up to the writers out there. How do you insure there is continuity in your books. Let's call this SHARING WEDNESDAY!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Love Is Hard - Understanding Emotional Conflict

We have spent a lot of time talking about conflict here on the blog. We have talked about external conflict and we have talked about internal conflict. What I really want to focus on today is the concept of emotional conflict in romance novels. In honestly have to say, this is one of those biggest struggles I see so many writers have with their stories. Sure, they have things getting in the way of
the hero and heroine getting together, but for the most part, there isn't that emotional barrier they have to over come.

To understand this concept, it is best to, once again, return to the real world. It is time to think back to those first growing emotions two people have with one another.

Those early stages are pretty fantastic. These are the moments when everyone is seeing the world through rose colored glasses. But here is the thing. In the majority of cases, there is no formal commitment of "getting together". The couples are hanging out with one another. They are enjoying the company of one another. But, taking that next step to something more permanent is not getting in the way of things progressing.

When one of the members of that relationship then considers "taking it to the next level" things get complicated. And, it is here that the romance novels, in my opinion, are missing the mark. In the real world, that move is all about emotions. It doesn't involve whether or not our bosses will approve. It doesn't involve whether or not there is a financial gain. The barrier the couple faces is all about that emotional move of "do I dare move on?"  It is that fear of the unknown.

For the most part, these problems are occurring because of the set up of the relationship in the beginning. In an effort to get that romance going so soon in the story, the authors have failed to set up that growing phase of attraction. This leaves nothing more than an external conflict to get in the way.

One of the reasons romance is so hard to write is the struggle an author has to convey a feeling, which, in the real world, is often one that we cannot describe. Again, think back to when you first feel in love, or when you were first at this moment of not knowing if you could take the next step. Everyone around you would try to rationalize it, but for you, the only answer was "I don't know why but..."

To truly convey this emotional conflict requires authors really understanding their characters and what makes them tick. They have to know why their character would even be attracted "emotionally" to the other character. They have to know how they think and why they think the way they do. This is all internal. The reasons for getting together cannot simply be because the company doesn't allow inter-office dating.