Saturday, September 26, 2009

What Rules?

In the critique groups I belong to, members constantly talk about the unwritten rules of writing. "Don't start a scene with dialogue." "No head-hopping." "Get rid of passive voice." "Lose the dialogue tags." "No back story in the first few chapters."

I've read at least six bestsellers this year, which break every one of these rules, from established authors and those just beginning their careers.

The latest book I'm reading has at least seven characters, so far, all narrating in first person. When I started submitting Sultana, which was originally four characters in first person, much of the advice I received from the crit group was that a first person story with four main characters was too confusing. Even though I identified each character at the opening of the chapter. So, I was very curious to see how a best-selling author would handle multiple characters in first person. I've found only one character in the novel distinct from the others. Yet, this is a best-selling book.

It seems clear if a writer is clever enough or well-known, he or she can get away with breaking the rules. What does it mean for those of us who are unpublished? Do the rules still apply?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

What Motivates You?

Bill O'Hanlon wrapped up the final day of the WD conference with a very appropriate topic; energizing your writing with your skill and perseverance. He and other authors shared their motivational sources and stressed using your emotional states of Blissed, Blessed, Pissed and/ or Dissed in your writing, to keep yourself going even when it gets tough.

Motivation can come from both negative and positive events in your life. Who would guess that a career as a mystery writer would begin for Sue Grafton, while dreaming up imaginative ways of killing or maiming her soon-to-be ex-husband? If you're angry about a particular condition or a crusader who wants to change the world, like Andrew Vachss in his crime fiction, channel your anger into your writing.

What's your motivation?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

When Is It Time To Get a Freelance Editor?

At the WD conference on Saturday, three independent editors, Alice Rosengard, Ruth Greenstein and Linda Carbone led a lively session on the freelance editing. I've blogged about this issue in recent weeks and decided to attend the session.

The freelance editors discussed when the need for their services arose, as editorial departments at various publishing houses began to downsize. They also provided several means of locating editors through other writers, Publishers Marketplace, and direct hire. They shared their individual approaches to editing, looking at technical concerns such as POV, sequence of events, character development and veracity; the average costs of such services, the length of time it can take dependent on the quality of the work, and the things a freelance editor cannot guarantee the author, such as a sale.

The topic is of particular interest to me because I've decided to hire a freelance editor, whom I had the pleasure of meeting two years ago at the Historical Novel Society. We've barely started but I'm already impressed by her professionalism and the recommendations I've had from her previous and current clients. What made me decide to do this? As Ruth Greenstein advised attendees today, I've reached a critical point in my manuscript; I've done as much as I possibly can with it. It's gone through a critique group and I've revised and edited until I felt I would go mad. Now, I feel is the time for fresh eyes to spot the difficulties I'm NOT seeing.

I don't know what the result may be, but for a work that is so precious to me, I've often referred to it as my baby, it's worth the investment.

Friday, September 18, 2009

What Kind of Writer Are You?

Jane Friedman, editorial director of Writers' Digest, started her session, Decisions, Decisions: Deciding the Best Publishing Route for You at the conference, with "What Kind of Writer Are You?".

a) The "God" Category
You want to be published by the big six publishers and make millions of dollars. You live and breathe your writing and you may just have the commercial appeal to pull it off. But even though you are the God of Writing, you still need to: promote! promote! promote! (So, apparently even gods have to do some work.)

b) "Growing" Category
People who are starting out and are focused more on the writing and have room to grow in the marketing world. You're on your way (possibly) to acknowledging that rejection is part of the business but you're willing to be persistent.

c) "Authority" Category
Especially for non-fiction writers; you know your audience better than a mainstream publisher or you've created a niche for yourself and you can convert fans of your work into buyers.

I'd define myself as a growing writer, because quite frankly, I'd never consider myself in the "God" category. My critique groups can attest to this, cause I often actually say in my comments to them that I'm not the God of Writing.

I've met enough writers with ego who aim to be Gods and I wish them good luck with it. They have the drive to get there and the single-minded motivation to do it. I had a friend once ask me, if I wasn't aiming for the stars, what would be the point?

While publication is the ultimate goal, if it never happens, I won't stop living. It is one part of my life; a very important part but my success or failure at it doesn't define me.

So, what kind of writer are you?

Writers' Digest: The Business of Getting Published

This weekend, I'm at a conference in NYC, the Business of Getting Published, sponsored by Writers' Digest. I attended the opening address by Mike Shatzkin and Jane Friedman's session on deciding the best route towards getting published.

This is only the second writing conference I've attended, but I love them, for the chance to network with fellow writers. It's always reassuring to realize that whether fiction or non-fiction, we share the same concerns regarding the current and future state of publishing. Especially when the universal approach from most publishers has become an expectation that their authors should do more (Facebook, Twitter and all social media - promote! promote! promote!) with potentially less (advances, that is).

I'll be blogging about the conference all weekend. Looks to be a good one.

Time flies when you're having fun, or writing novels.

It's been a tremendous twelve months. A new job and health issues have impacted my writing time, but I'm still at it, trying to wrap...