Sunday, July 30, 2006

Communication Is Key

Two of the most popular forms of communication on the Internet today are blogs, and email loops.

Email loops have heavily replaced the old chat rooms for ease of communication while still having some form of intimacy. It’s not quite as ‘real’ as immediate response finger-to-finger (rather than face-to-face) chat room style conversation, but what has made them so popular is that there doesn’t have to be a set time, and you have a record of the entire conversation thread.

Charlotte Dillon, herself the head of several very large, and well-respected email loops hosted on Yahoo groups has a very nice article on how to get the most out of your email group experience. You can read the article here, or visit her site. You can also join one of her groups from this page here. I can’t think of anyone who has done more in building a place on-line for authors (romance authors in particular) to learn, and expand their art than Charlotte. Two thumbs up, and a huge hug for Charlotte who is a wonderful inspiration to so many of us through the years.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Great Writers Take Great Pains

It takes someone really willing to dissect themselves in order to develop their skill, to be a fantastic writer. Blogs like Bernita's An Innocent-A Blog is a wonderful example of such a writer, and those that flock there every day with same intent.

These are people serious about what they do. People who want to know what makes a story tick. What makes characters work. What little nuances help create atmosphere. People with a genuine desire to be great writers.

Bernita's blog is great for yet another reason. Her topics are presented with such flair and style as to make them a delightful read while demanding that you open your mind and probe its recesses for the truth, and the pain.

Blogs like hers, and the others like it, can only make writers stronger, and their stories better. It's a wonderful world we live in now, with the techno age, and the ability to communicate in such a large scale way. It has given to aspiring writers such an awesome opportunity. One that had never existed prior. I for one, can't wait to see what developments come in the future thanks to computers, and the Internet.

Friday, July 28, 2006

I probably won't have much to say today as I've been busy with a fresh face around the farm here. I hadn't planned on really making any issue out of personal things too much on this blog, but I couldn't help myself today. We had a little delivery that I'm so tickled about. So I'd like to introduce the newest addition to our family--Country Havens Shock and Awe:


Here she is with her mom.

We've had several foals born on the farm this year, but this little girl came as a bit of a surprise. We purchased the mom early this year bred but didn't think she was pregnant. She sure fooled us. :)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

What An Editor Doesn't Do

I've spent a lot of time recently relating my version of what an editor does. Most specifically, lately, what they look for, and do while actually editing. How about the things they don't do.

A caveat once again, this is my opinion. I do not, and do not wish to, speak for other editors.

I won't say never, because that's just too absolute, but I certainly would say that I pay strict attention to not changing the author's voice. That's not POV, that's not grammar--the author's voice is something so undefinable that it defies accurate description, but is definately something you know when you see it. It's the way they talk. The way they relate the story, and the way their characters relate to each other. Even who their characters are, and act. Again, that's not to say the editor shouldn't tell the author when the character is acting 'out of character' for the way the author has them set up. Or even suggest to the author that perhaps the character is a jerk (when he/she shouldn't be). But the editor shouldn't heavy hand the way the author sees the story, or characters in it to any degree that completely changes the story, feel, or plots, so long as they make sense.

I know for a fact that there are some instances where editors do this. In fact, Agent Kristen, on her Pub Rants blog series on what to look for in contracts specifically mentions that an agent, (or author) should ask before signing the contract, what changes the editor might want. How drastic they will be. Because it will let the author know if the editor is on the same page with them story wise, or if they are going to be expected to completely re-write plot lines, or character attitudes, etc.

In my opinion, if the subplots, or plots don't work, the story should not have been accepted in the first place. At the very least, it should have been sent back for revisions before the contract was offered. In a less than perfect world, that's not always the way it happens, but unless it completely cripples the story I do believe such tinkerings should be avoided at all costs.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

One Final Word On The Subject of Editors

In reading one of my favorite blogs Paperback Writer I just happened upon an older post of hers that was logged in the sidebar. The permanent link for this post on what to expect from a relationship with your agent, and editor is here. I would like to post just a small excerpt from that topic though, because I believe it highlights a lot of what I stated below:

Quote Paperback Writer
Your editor is your immediate supervisor at your publishing house. Your editor also decides whether to recommend buying more of your work, requests your payments from accounting, places your release on the schedule, works on cover art and copy with production and is the primary force at the publisher for getting you support. Aka the last person in publishing that you want to piss off, so by all means possible, don't.

The editor/writer relationship can be more involved than the agent/writer relationship. Working on your book together can be like a partnership made in heaven, or a showdown at the OK Corral. Some famous dude once said that no writer is a genius to their editor, and he was right. Your editor sees you, warts and all. If you're lucky, your editor helps you get rid of some of those warts and makes you a better writer. If you're very lucky, you will make your editor look good to his or her boss. If you're blessed, you will find an editor who is so good that you want him or her to edit everything you write.

End Quote

The Editor's Job

First of all, I’d like to make perfectly clear, this is a blog based on my personal experiences and insights. I can not speak for any other editor, nor do I wish to. I do hope that what I post here is in some small way of help to writers earnestly wishing to further themselves. I think I need to post a disclaimer on the sidebar here somewhere.

Yesterday I made comments on what an editor looks for in submissions, and some of the basic mechanical flaws that are encountered. Sometimes those flaws will kick a manuscript right out of the slush pile. Other times, however, it may really be a case of the story is really good, and we want to edit it into shape. I have to admit; occasionally I can be a glutton for punishment. For the most part it works out well though, and I’ve been really happy that I took the chance with an author.

I want to make that point clear as well. The authors I have worked with by and large are some of the most wonderful people you’d ever want to meet, and deal with. They work hard, and understand that the editor plays a very important role in their publishing life. I love what I do, and am passionate about it.

Today I’d like to continue with what an editor actually does. Our job consists of much more than simply correcting improper punctuation. In fact, that’s the proofreader’s job once the editing is finished. However, I certainly will correct punctuation as I go. My eyes are really on the bigger picture though. For me, it’s the story that counts.

Looking for plot holes, missing logic, difficult to understand phrases, informational inaccuracies, grammar usage, and characterization, and flawed, or inconsistent portrayals of those characters is highest on my list. Those are the things that I’m going to tackle. Many times it’s just a case of re-wording awkward phrases. Other times it’s marking an entire passage, or even scene, and leaving the author a comment on what’s generally wrong with it, and it needs to be changed, fixed, or re-worded.

When an author gets their manuscript back for the first time after a round of editing, perhaps it is shocking to them to see all the changed words; the yellow highlights denoting comments, and problem areas. But that’s really what the editor is there for. To see the story with fresh eyes. Eyes that are not so close to the story that they miss obvious holes, or shifts in POV, and the like.

It is understandable that a writer, especially someone who hasn’t been through the editing process before feels a little bit of a sting. Their work is their baby, and someone is pulling it apart. I am a writer, so I do understand those feelings. It is equally important that the writer understand the importance of the editor’s job. The writer is often way too close to the story to even see the problems that might exist. As a writer I know for a fact that it truly is possible to read a page several times and miss a word that has been left out, or a spelling error. It’s a weird trick of the mind. The writer’s mind knows it should be there, so it ‘sees’ it. There are a few tricks, like reading the story backwards to help make those errors jump out, but that can be a real headache.

Editors are not power junkies, or monsters. We have a responsibility, however, to the house we work for to be sure the work presented reflects the quality desired. We have a responsibility to the readers who will eventually purchase the books we present to them—and finally, we have a responsibility to the author themselves, to give them the best effort in finding any flaws, and working it through. As a writer, would you want anything less?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Editor is a Rockstar!

I’m getting a head start on tomorrow’s posting. I had an article just about finished when a question from the comment section yesterday kept butting in.

First of all, I’d like to make perfectly clear, this is a blog based on my personal experiences and insights. I can not speak for any other editor, nor do I wish to. I do hope that what I post here is in some small way of help to writers earnestly wishing to further themselves. My opinions are based on a conglomerate of experiences with writers, not on any one sole person. No post is ever aimed at any one in particular. I think I need to post a disclaimer on the sidebar here somewhere, but for now I’m going to post this little paragraph on my articles just to make it clear.

So, enough with that, here is the question:

Is the editor always right?

And here is the answer:

Yes.

There is no long answer. There is no ‘but if’. There is no ‘maybe’.

Once your story is accepted, your editor OWNS it from then until final galley. Everything that needs to be done is his/her responsibility, and there is plenty. There is much more than simply editing the story itself, but for the author, that’s where the concern lies, so we’ll stick with that for now.

If your story is accepted at a house, it’s usually because your particular editor championed it in some form or fashion, so you really should love him/her just for that alone. They pushed it because they saw something in it. They liked your over all style. They fell in love with the story line.

Okay, so now you sit there thinking then what the heck is all that yellow stuff on my page? Why all the comments? Why are words crossed out, and rearranged? Why do I need to re-write large parts? If it was so freakin’ great, why is this unseen person trashing it?

The reason is that editors need to take the material and do their best to make it shine. There will be much more on what editors look for in the story itself when my actual tomorrow’s post comes. It’s the one I was working on, so I don’t want to ruin it now by going into that. Back to the original question.

Is the editor always right, though, you still ask. They are right at that moment. Yes. Always. Another thing that triggered my desire to write this extra piece was watching one of my favorite shows earlier this evening. I love Rockstar—Supernova. Okay, I mildly liked last years version of Rockstar, but since I adore Tommy Lee, I’m having a ball this year watching it. The thing is, all of the contestants on the show are wonderful. They are accomplished singers, and performers in their own right. However, they NEED to be what Supernova needs them to be. All of the members of the band are attempting to mold these singers into the polished performer that they need. Even though individually each of those performers may very well be just fine… at THIS moment they need to be the version of fine that Supernova needs them to be. At this point in time, no matter what anyone else thinks about them as performers, and singers, the guys that make up Supernova are RIGHT. No ifs, no ands, and no buts. They’re right, period.

That’s the way it is when an author is working with an editor as well. Yes. The editor is right, period. Can the author discuss a problem point with the editor? Yes. Absolutely. It’s encouraged. Should an author ask for clarification if they’re not sure what is needed, or wanted? No doubt about it. Definitely. Must the author comply if the final judgment is the change needs to be made? Yes. Definitely.

Can you ask for a different editor? Sure. I’ve read various versions of where that might lead from other authors blogs, and I’ll leave it at that for my personal opinion.

More To Absorb

The ever wonderful Paperback Writer has a fantastic post that kicks off a blog workshop on building a novel series.

EVP-The Editor's Viewpoint

In the comments section of my post yesterday, I was asked to refrain from steaming ahead until I took a step backwards and gave more info on what turns an editor on, and what turns them off.

This is a tougher subject than one might think. It is such a personal thing once you get beyond the mere mechanics of writing.

So lets start with that. The mechanics.

I seriously doubt any editor, or agent would argue the point that severe mishandling of the basic principles and rules regarding good fiction are a turn off. These are such basic things that they really shouldn’t need to be listed, and yet, they are the exact things that pop up on a frighteningly consistent basis.

The ‘piratesque’ idea of the rules are really more like guidelines, while cute, is only partly accurate. Rules such as don’t head hop, don’t flip story POV ie: first person, third person, omniscient, at any time during the story, avoid passive writing, show don’t tell etc, are rules for a very good reason. If the rules aren’t adhered to it, at the least, weakens the story, at the worst trashes it completely.

Now it’s true that some of these rules can be bent, if done well. Things such as head hopping, and an occasional tell where it fits, and even keeps a certain rhythm won’t kill the story, or even weaken it much if it is done for an actual reason, and done well. Those two caveats, however, make for a real dilemma. First of all, it appears that many beginning writers (and many not beginners) do not even realize what they are doing when they do it, so they can’t know if it’s for a reason, or if they’re doing it well. Secondly, if they do realize it, they rarely sit back and ask themselves if it really is necessary, or adds to the story at all. And last, but by no means least, they rarely do it well. So one good reason for sticking hard to the rules when you’re starting out is that you haven’t had time to develop your craft enough to bend the rules where they can be.

Some rules simply should not be broken, or even bent. Story POV should remain consistent. I have yet to see a good story that bends that rule in any form, big publisher release, small pub release, or submission.

It doesn’t make too much sense to sit here and attempt to list all the basic rules, although the above appear to me to be the most offensive, and commonly damaged ones. These rules are easy to find if a writer is at all serious about finding them, and miles of paper and gallons of ink, not to mention tons of bandwidth on line are dedicated to the detailed accounting of the hows, and how not tos of the basic rules.

Things like spelling, punctuation, etc. are so very basic that if I even have to mention them is an affront to myself as a writer, and an editor. I WILL give some slack to a writer whose native tongue is not English. It really amazes me how well some of these writers accomplish their task. I have one such man that I’m working with at the moment and he’s wonderful. Yes there are some grammar issues, but considering the difficulty of working in a foreign language, he’s fantastic.

Now, where argument can come into play is what comes after the mechanics. Here is where the personal taste enters in. Some writers may feel it’s unfair, but it’s a fact of life. Editors are people too. We can’t help personal bias. That and the fact that we also try to make judgment on what the general public will like, and that is a catch as catch can thing as well.

Also, every house works just a little differently. Where I am at, the submissions have already gone through the ‘first round’, which means someone read the query letter and considered it interesting. From there the submissions go into a slush pile where, since we are electronic, it’s easy to open each one and read the synopsis and decide which ones we want to tackle and which we don’t, unlike some where the editor gets a pile of envelopes and must slog through each one at a time.

Here again is a matter of personal attitude. What I look for in a synopsis may be much more lenient than what another editor does. So there could be much room for argument. As a writer I feel synopses are evil, and should be quickly sent to where all evil things go. As an editor I understand the value of a synopsis. In my case, however, I will not penalize an author for a boring synopsis. What I must see is a plot line. (Certain rules do apply, please spell correctly, etc…) I must see a plot line that is reasonable within the parameters of the story’s genre. I want to be sure, as Miss Snark once said, that aliens don’t land in chapter 12, unless it’s a story that actually involves aliens. I know for a fact, however, that many editors are much more stringent in their appraisal of a synopsis.

Okay, now, one might ask, how do I know if what I’m writing works? Especially since I’ve already said most of these writers do not recognize the errors they are making. Critique groups can be good. However, they can be a trap as well. Many times they are a case of the blind leading the blind, and in some cases they can even be vindictive. If you can find a truly great critique partner, or group, where you respect the writers in it, and value their opinions, they are worth their weight in gold. Some really good ones do exist.

Pay attention to what you write. You’d think this would be a no-brainer. I have to say that I’m not sure it is. I have to wonder, and having had the pleasure, or lack thereof, of meeting up with some of the newbie Prima Donnas, actually know, that many of these writers simply think they have no need to learn the rules, or check to see if they meet the basic requirements. They don’t WANT to learn. They demand that they are artists, and how dare anyone impede the process of creation with ugly things like rules. The only thing to be said there is--good luck with that.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Write Thing

Writers write, right? That’s what they do, but writing the book isn’t the end of the road. There are still miles to go before you get to sleep, let me assure you. Miss Snark has one of her usual brilliant commentaries on one of her correspondences regarding an author who figures that writing the book is enough, and doesn’t want any part of the filthy business of marketing, and selling.

Well, I’d like to tip toe backwards just a smidgeon from even that part. I hate to tell you this all you writers out there in inkland, but you’re not the bee-all-end-all super writer. No one is. The words ‘the end’ on your manuscript may signal the end of your perspiration in writing the story, but once you actually manage to find a house that is willing to publish it you are going to meet a new monster--your editor. That person is going to go through your manuscript and quite possibly tear it apart. You are EXPECTED to do the revisions. The editor will not do it for you.

Thankfully that are a great many fantastic authors out there, who even the first time they are published understand this principle. They are very serious about what they do, and want the best product going out with their name on it. Believe it or not, that’s what the editor wants too.

There isn’t a writer in the world that doesn’t need a good editor. The degrees of editing necessary may very well vary. I’ve had some pieces that required very little work, and some that required major overhauls. You are required to actually do the work the editor suggests (we try not to actually demand it until you start digging in your heels and saying, but I’m an ARTIST).

Even before I became an editor I had writer friends who received offers only to be shocked that it would take a year, sometimes more, before their work was scheduled for release. Surprise. It takes that long just for the regular run-of-the-mill things, and if there are snags along the way, it may very well take longer.

There is a lot of work between the words ‘the end’ and seeing your finished novel published. Unless your name is a regular on the NYT bestseller list, don’t plan on playing the Prima Donna, roll up your sleeves and get ready to work.

More on the world of marketing, and promotion after ‘the end’ tomorrow.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

SHOW DON'T TELL

One of the most common traps writers fall into is telling what a character feels, or does. It’s the lazy way out. It takes fewer words to say she felt hot, or she was beautiful, he was handsome, or he was angry.

If she felt hot, then it could be, her t-shirt clung to her skin, or her face flushed with heat, or both. If she was beautiful, it could be, every head turned as she walked down the street, cars driven by men became uncontrollable hunks of metal as their drivers swooned. Okay, some of this is over the top, but the fact is, it’s more interesting than she was beautiful, or she felt hot. Take the time to give the reader the ability to feel what’s going on, to experience the emotions, not just a flat read.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Getting a Lot of Milage

The article from POD-dy Mouth mentioned in my post below is getting its share of glory. Rightfully so, it was entertaining, and enlightening. So much so that A.C. Crispin, and Victoria Strauss devoted their post yesterday to the subject that pretty much mirrors what I said a mere few hours earlier. So, if you don't wish to believe me (most writers do not), go get it from the mouth of the most respected folks in the business today at: At Last! Writer Beware

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Grab Me Now

It's true. I'm giving you the opportunity to grab me. Really take hold, and hook on. That's what an editor does every time he/she picks up a manuscript from the slush pile.

I know you've all heard that you have three pages to hook the reader. In some cases that's being overly generous. Every word you write from the very first, must keep me glued to your story. Choose wisely, please.

The ever vivacious POD-dy Mouth has a fantastic entry on her blog from yesterday. For those of you who do not know, she is a published author in search of gold in the heaps of POD land to prove that there are fantastic self-pubbed books out there. Her article yesterday is a great example of how quickly a reader can say 'next'.

This is absolutely true for editors and agents. If you hook me through the first sentenance, I will keep reading through the paragraph. If that continues to interest me, I'll keep reading through the page. I'll admit that in a few cases I've been interested through the first few pages only to find myself loosing interest and still keep reading in hopes that what I found on the first pages returns. That's rarely the case, and it is very disappointing.

You might be calling foul right now. How dare anyone make assumptions based on the first few words? Well, I'll tell you. There is a lot to read. Piles and piles in fact. We never run out. I (and any other agent, or editor out in novel land) do not have time to read an entire manuscript just in case there's gold on page 140. There better damned well be gold on page 1. The competition is fierce, and this is a business based on 99% rejection. Oh, and yes, it really is possible to tell a person's style, and ability in the first few words, or pages if the first words are good.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

New Cover Art

I am so impressed with the artists over at Chippewa/Lady Aibell. I got the cover art for my Novella Computer Games, being published under the pseudonym Brandy Alexander, today and it's FANTASTIC. It's exactly what I told them I envisioned for the cover. So without further adieu here it is.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

It Never Ceases To Amaze

The things people will fall for is a constant source of amusement. A.C. Crispin, and Victoria Strauss have done it again. They've uncovered yet another writer-aimed scam. Read about it on the Writer's Beware blog here.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Wanna Play?

If you're in the mood for a little fun, read this author insight piece by Jenna Petersen titled 'The Many Stages of Suck: Or How a Book Is Born'.

My Point Of View

Good morning.

Maybe I should be posting this on my old blog, since it's really more of a rant than an announcement, or news. In crusing blogs, forums, web-sites, etc, you always read of writer's wanting to know what editors look for, or what makes their work stand out, or sink. I'll tell you what problem I see the most lately as I sludge through the pile. POV.

Head-hopping--Okay, it is not the huge tabboo that it was a short time ago. We now accept the fact that most writers are aware that many very popular novelists do it. So they feel free to break this 'rule' at their leisure. The problem is 'don't head hop' is a rule for a reason. The reason is if you do it without a good reason, or do it badly, it stands out like a sore thumb, and gives the reader a headache trying to keep up with all the flipping around. Think before you hop. If you can seriously find a good reason to know what a different character is thinking, or feeling, then do it... but, here's the caveat... do it well. That's a heck of a lot tricker than figuring out if there's a reason for it.

Omniscient--Unless your whole story is done in this viewpoint (good luck with that, ugh), simply flipping out of character and throwing in a narrator's viewpoint is a bad thing. It's a very bad thing, but I see writer's trying to do it all the time. Omniscient on its own is difficult enough because it so often forces writers into passive voice, so doing it well is an accomplishment, but just to comment on the 'normally' third, or first person story is author intrusion at its worst. (Think Humphrey Bogart turning to the camera and saying 'She couldn't whistle to save her soul, so I'm safe'. -- It's NOT a good thing.)

Take the time to really learn, and understand what the different POV's are.

For those anxious for a good POV lesson, this article by Leslie King is fantastic.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

One More Time

I just had to make a seperate post for this final piece available from Lady Aibell Press because it appears that the posting editor here only allows so many pictures per post. The cover artists at Chippewa, and it's erotic division Lady Aibell do such wonderful work that I thought it shameful not to include the fantastic cover for this fun story as well. So--last but by no means least:


Erotica
By: Erika Kaye
I hope you will check out these wonderful titles, and enjoy them as much as I did.
~Tami

Currently Available At Chippewa Publishing


These are the currently available titles from my wonderful author's at Chippewa. I love you all. You've all been fantastic to work with, and I'm honored to have been a small part in the process of your success.

LOST SOUL OF THE WOLF
Dark Fantasy
By: L. Shannon
Horror
By Nancy S. Ward
(a division of Chippewa)
Erotica
By: Anna J. Evans
Erotica
By: April M. Hedges

The IN Thing

Okay, here we go. I'm going to do my best to make this blog work.

Yeah, I know. A few of you who know me well, and many of you who have come to know me from recent months attempting to blog elsewhere are probably scoffing. Some of you have probably spit coffee out on your keyboards at the thought. Blogs are everywhere now, and all the rage. Still, for some reason, the ability to write just this little bit every day seems to allude me.

Maybe it's because I write so much in my other endeavors. Being an author means, of course, spending large amounts of time writing. Being an editor means spending large amounts of time reading other people's writing, and then figuring out how to make it better--stronger. So, at times even just a few extra paragraphs feel like an enormous accomplishment.

Then there are so many other fantastic blogs that I cruise around and read whenever I get the chance. I will begin to list them on the sidebar here soon. Some of them are so clever, so insightful, that it seems impossible to reach such standards myself without spending vast amounts of time coming up with the content to fill these web-pages.

All in all, I hope you will find my space here enjoyable. I hope you will check back often to see if I'm still alive. Hey, make a bet with a friend and see if I can manage to keep up with this and post more than once a month.

Most of all, keep coming back and giving a little wave as you pass through. Life's too short not to make friends as you wade through the muck. So stick around and I'll keep you posted on my new work, my old work, and my work on the way. I also plan to use this space to announce the release of the titles available from the wonderful authors I've been privilaged to work with as they become available.

Peace on your journey,

Tami