Letters to My Editor: The End Is Near

What does a working relationship between a writer and an editor look like? Author and HNE client, Jessie Clever and I have known each other for more than ten years. So in our case, it looks a little snarky.

Welcome to Letters to My Editor. She writes to me one week on her blog. I reply the next on mine. Mayhem just might ensue.

Letters-to-My-Editor_edited-1

This week’s letter from Jessie, “The End Is Near,” can be found over on Romancing a Blog.

Don’t miss my reply next week here at Long Story Short. Subscribe today!

Advertisements

Letters to My Editor: Gist and Tell

What does a working relationship between a writer and an editor look like? Author and HNE client, Jessie Clever and I have known each other for more than ten years. So in our case, it looks a little snarky.

Welcome to Letters to My Editor. She writes to me one week on her blog. I reply the next on mine. Mayhem just might ensue.

Click here to read Jessie’s most recent letter.

Letters-to-My-Editor_edited-1Dear Jessie,

Sometimes an author’s point can get sacrificed at the expense of marketability. In my humble opinion, this is almost always a bad thing. The author’s intent breathes passion and energy into a plot. It drives action and fuels conflict. Removing it is practically an amputation.

Keep in mind that it is possible for a certain story to be the wrong vehicle for an author’s point, but the loss of message is far more likely due to a lack in one of two areas: knowledge or communication.

Knowledge

Knowledge is power, right? Or at least, your greatest ally. Know your intent. Granted, awareness might not come until after you’ve written the darn thing, but be open and honest with yourself about what you’re writing. Is it personal? Is it meant to speak to a certain situation or audience? Take some time to write your point down as its own separate blurb. Make it clear, concise, and genuine. Boil it down to its essence until you could rattle off the gist to anyone. Keep it on a sticky note next to your keyboard. Tattoo it on the backs of your hands if you must (probably not the best advice I’ve given). Knowing your intent is your first and most important line of defense against unnecessary sacrifice. That sticky-note blurb will guide you when deciding whether or not to go to the mattresses in the editing process.

Communication

Share your intent with your editor and be willing to elaborate as needed. Not only should your editor be respectful of what you’re trying to say, he or she is going to help you get your point across more consistently and effectively. This does require patience, openness, and collaboration. Strengthening your message might actually require pruning it back before it becomes a Chekhov play that hits the audience over the head with symbolism and meaning every two lines. (Apologies to Chekhov lovers everywhere. His work is great, but I’ve certainly never had to ask, “Please, Anton, what did you want me to take away from this?”) If you and your editor know what’s at stake, your intention has a doubly strong chance of becoming a healthy, meaningful factor of your manuscript.

If your editor knows about your point and is still saying you should scrap it entirely, listen to their reasoning before making a decision. Ask questions. Whether or not you make the change, there might be some valuable information in what they say. On the other hand, if he/she doesn’t ponder the situation carefully, isn’t willing to explain, or doesn’t respect your attachment, get the heck outta there. It might mean waiting longer to be published, but you have the right to be heard at your best, not simply at what will sell.

Best,

K

Subscribe to Romancing a Blog to get Jessie’s next letter and to Long Story Short for my next reply!

Travel Plans

If you’re a planner, the image below might be a trusted and beloved friend. If you prefer to wing it in your writing, it might induce mild nausea.

plot outline
Manuscript Mountain: the author’s ultimate travel destination.

Manuscript Mountain travel posterAs November—otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month—appears on the horizon, I offer this travel advice for all brave adventurers: Whether you’re a planner or a pantser, make your peace with the noble mountain. Make your pilgrimage regularly. Planners, you’re already outlining that plot, of course, but keep a simplified itinerary near to hand to keep your daily writing on track. Pantsers, perhaps just a sticky note on the edge of your monitor would be a lovely decoration while composing.

Either way, Manuscript Mountain isn’t just for the early stages of writing. Once you have your first draft and are ready to dive into a second and third and tenth, map out the route your story is currently taking. After an initial hike, the summit might have been reached, but the journey might look a little more like . . .

plot outline oopsWhile, yes, the image shows a rather arduous slog, this information is incredibly useful. Does each scene and chapter trudge farther up the slope? Where are there plateaus and craters? Is your climax identifiable? Does your falling action and resolution satisfy without trailing on and on and on and onandonandonandon . . . ? A visual of a draft identifies the areas most in need of attention as well as prevents even the most renegade explorer from becoming entirely lost.

You’re making the journey whether you map out your path before or after you arrive, so why not make the record of your travels work for you?

 

 

Letters to My Editor: Books and Babies

What does a working relationship between a writer and an editor look like? Author and HNE client, Jessie Clever and I have known each other for more than ten years. So in our case, it looks a little snarky.

Welcome to Letters to My Editor. She writes to me one week on her blog. I reply the next on mine. Mayhem just might ensue.

Click here to read Jessie’s most recent letter.

Letters-to-My-Editor_edited-1Dear Jessie,

Books and babies: two things that bring out the best and worst unsolicited advice. Expectant parents, like unpublished writers, are especially tantalizing targets for the expertise of every other parent, or writer, in the world.

Before I address your question, I consider the plight of the adviser. Most of us have at some time or other felt socially obligated to offer a piece of wisdom to a colleague or friend. My own exceedingly generalized and unoriginal piece of unsolicited advice for the world of the written word is this: we could all benefit from approaching a writer’s manuscript as though it were the writer’s living, breathing offspring.

It’s not a huge leap, really. A manuscript is the creation and responsibility of the writer in whom he/she has invested a significant amount of time, energy, and love. So, for example, when I’m asked to comment on someone’s work, I try to think of myself as this manuscript-child’s teacher sitting down for a conference with the parent-writer. Yes, I need to be open and honest about the young’un’s progress and behavior, but I should never dismiss or usurp the vital and unique relationship between story and author. Thought and talk (in that order) about an author’s manuscript should be as considerate as if it were about their kid.

Now on to your question and the receiving end of advice:

 When do you dare to break the mold as a writer and when do you not?

Again, I find the parallel in the world of parenting. Clear rules do exist, like using a car seat or preventing your infant from chewing on electrical cords, but there are other areas that require individual discernment, like when your baby will first try ice cream or what toys you choose to introduce to your child. Lots of opinions are out there, but only you, the author/parent, should ultimately decide when to break the mold. How do you figure that out? Look at your work as a baby and consider the questions below. With your answers, hopefully you’ll be able to carefully choose which points to concede and on which proverbial hills you’re willing to make a last stand.

  • What’s your goal for your manuscript? (To be true to itself no matter what, to be published, or to sell well are all valid answers.)
  • Where’s the balance between this particular story’s individuality and the best chance it has of being read?
  • Who are you as the guardian of this story? What are your values/principles?

Raising your manuscript will require both protecting it from harm and letting its sweet baby knees get scuffed. What works for one author might not for another, and what proves to be a death knoll for one manuscript could be the elixir of life for the next.

Best,

K

Be sure to subscribe to Jessie’s blog at Romancing a Blog to get her next letter!

What to Do When You Hate What You’ve Written

Imagine with me . . .

You’ve been working on a manuscript for months, but sitting down to continue feels like a Promethean life sentence. Notes lay scattered about the room obscured by crusty coffee mugs, wine bottles, and tragically empty beef jerky pouches. Your family has been avoiding you in fear of some kind of eruption. Your friends have assumed you’re dead. This story is slowly draining the life out of you like some demonic leach until you start to dizzily consider that your friends may be right. Any attempt to re-read what you have already accomplished summons the desire to burn everything in sight, smash your hard drive, and either howl your rage or lie quietly sobbing in the debris.

Continue reading

A Reader’s Report (or How to Avoid Seeing Red)

There are many stages in the editing process, and this month, Long Story Short will be fleshing out the reasoning behind the particular services How Novel provides, ordered chronologically with the writing process. Lucky for you, most everything comes along with an illustration or two straight from my geeky (but quietly charming, she said very convincingly) life, especially childhood.

It’s important for writers to find the support that helps their style and process. Some folks plan out everything. Others like the excitement of “winging it.” Some writers take months and years to deliberate over their manuscript, putting it in a proverbial drawer until they can weigh the pros and cons of proposed changes. Others like to keep the momentum going by editing as soon as they’ve received feedback. Hopefully, hearing about the services offered by HNE will be helpful for you as you continue on your writing journey and discern the best fit for your work!

READER’S REPORT

You can find more details over on the services page.

“Paddington took a deep breath and gave the teller a hard stare. It was one of the extra special hard ones which his Aunt Lucy had taught him and which he kept for emergencies.”

Michael Bond, A Visit to the Bank from Paddington Abroad

It has been claimed by my family that from infancy I have been capable of hard stares to rival Paddington Bear himself. Not having been on the receiving end of one, I’ll have to take their word for it.

Continue reading

Developmentally Delectable

There are many stages in the editing process, and this month, Long Story Short will be fleshing out the reasoning behind the particular services How Novel provides, ordered chronologically with the writing process. Lucky for you, most everything comes along with an illustration or two straight from my geeky (but quietly charming, she said very convincingly) life, especially childhood.

It’s important for writers to find the support that helps their style and process. Some folks plan out everything. Others like the excitement of “winging it.” Some writers take months and years to deliberate over their manuscript, putting it in a proverbial drawer until they can weigh the pros and cons of proposed changes. Others like to keep the momentum going by editing as soon as they’ve received feedback. Hopefully, hearing about the services offered by HNE will be helpful for you as you continue on your writing journey and discern the best fit for your work!

DEVELOPMENTAL EDITING

This is the bread and butter (or more fitting for today, cake and frosting) of what How Novel does. You can find it over on the services page.

I’m that person at a wedding reception who strategically times her trip to the cake table. I lurk in the background watching my prey, avoiding the notice of other predators. I wait patiently until one of the corners (or, in a pinch, any edge piece) has been cut, and with the speed of a sugar-crazed cheetah, I pounce. If I can intimidate the attendant into scraping off the cake server onto my plate, I consider the hunt a success. Frosting is the reason for cake. This is the code I live by.

Continue reading