Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Some Great Writing Advice

I recently stumbled upon a website (for lack of a better term) with 424 (yes, you read that right) rants about writing, specifically fantasy. As someone who reads, writes, and publishes fantasy, I decided to take a look....

Not Writing Crap

This is probably my favorite rant. OK, I only read two, but this really spoke to me as a publisher. I am fortunate enough that, in my writing group, most people are open to feedback. But the authors who submit to us...Well, if it wasn't an issue, I wouldn't be blogging about it here, would I?

#1, 2, and 3: Fix your writing.

I can sum this up with what should be obvious but for some reason still isn't--only submit a CLEAN copy. Yes, this means you will have to check it. Yes, this means maybe having someone help you proofread it. And if you think I'm being harsh (it was just a few mistakes!) let me show you the other side of things.

We receive more submissions than we can possibly publish. Add to that the fact that, when we choose a piece, we are putting our money on the line to publish it. Your manuscript is not a final manuscript--it's a pitch for what, after editing, we could publish for you. If you went to a job interview, would you wear all except a few pieces of clothing? Wash all but a few hairs?

Still not convinced? Consider this--using the wrong word, spelling of a word, or punctuation changes the meaning of a sentence. I just edited a manuscript that had two people "whelping" each other with swords. 

Whelping is what mother dogs do...and has nothing to do with swordplay. It was clearly the wrong word. Imagine all the other ways this could go horribly wrong. At best, you'll look like an idiot. At worst, you'll look lazy. And, as I said before, this is a pitch, a job interview. Trust me, lazy is NOT how you want to look. 

#5: Worth Quoting

Don’t decide that you are A Sensitive Artist, and the world Does Not Understand You. Almost nothing kills fiction faster (other than perhaps a shoddy understanding of spelling and grammar). Everything you write is not great. Everything you write is not publishable. You must revise. If you’ve trained yourself to write really great first drafts, you’ll probably still have to go over them for typos and factual errors if nothing else. If you have a problem with angst, teenage or otherwise, and can’t manage to keep your fiction separate from your personal problems, then don’t post anything for others to see until you’ve worked that out. “To reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim.” -Oscar Wilde.
So much this. For the majority of writers, there is a disconnect about what querying is to them versus what it is to an agent or publisher. When I read a submission, my thought is "Can I sell this?" There are works I've requested (#PitMad) that sounded so great...and what I got was so bad.

I will own, I am human. Once I decided to request a manuscript, I wanted that manuscript to succeed. I wanted, more than anything, to say yes. The disappointment when it falls flat--it sucks. Period. And, since I want the author to win, I offer feedback so they can improve.


For one of our first submissions, Becky spent a month critiquing and offering ideas and edits to a manuscript. The author's response? He basically told us that we just didn't understand his genius, and that making any of the edits we asked for would ruin his story. For reference, the title character, who was interesting and engaging in the first chapter, basically disappeared from the rest of the book. And us asking to make that character the forefront was not something he could do. (Cue smacking of head.)

I recently had a submission where the idea was so fun, but everything just needed more. With work, the manuscript could easily become four or five books, and something that we could publish each month, one after another, and really skyrocket the author. I won't give you the author's response, but will sum up that he owned to not editing the work at all, it was a first draft churned out one NaNo, and admitted that he got rid of a bunch of characters just to avoid having to name them.

Again, if you were at a job interview, would you confess to not wanting to take time to do your job right?

A Good Read

Overall, the post is pretty good, and if you follow the advice listed there, it will help you improve your writing. Thanks for indulging in allowing me a rant of my own. 

Please comment any questions you have about publishers. While I am part of a start-up operation, I love giving feedback and information based on my own personal experiences.