Sunday, January 26, 2014

2241 times

You get one shot at a good first impression. I've written about query letters and there are several awesome websites and blogs that have more details about writing a good query.
I've written about the format and content of the synopsis. Again, there are awesome websites and blogs with information about writing a killer synopsis.
I've written in general terms about the format of a manuscript. Besides the obvious of great writting, let me say that neatness counts.
It is very off putting to get a sloppy ms. Writing is a lot like vomiting -- hard to stop once it starts. Nonetheless, take a few minutes before you start the next Great American Novel, or before you send it out with the perfect query letter, and clean it up a bit.
Of course, I can't say what others want to see, but if my dreams would come true, I would want the following: (strong hint -- do this before submitting to Cactus Rain Publishing and you'll earn points.)
  • Use MS Word, not something else converted into Word. The conversion rarely works as well as the real deal. I will notice when it comes to formatting an ms into a book. 
  • "Select all" and get rid of the widow/orphan command. I'd rather see widows and orphans in the ms than bother to remove the command. This might not be true of other small publishers.
  • Use the page break command between chapters. Yes, I will know if you use a ton of "enter" key strokes.
  • You really, really don't need to use ellipsis in fiction. It is probably being misused. Stop it...
  • In literature, there is only ONE space between sentences and NONE after the last sentence in a paragraph. None. Fix that.
  • The first line of every chapter is flush with the margin.
  • I like the tab set at three character spaces. Do not EVER use the space bar in place of a tab command.
  • Quote marks are NOT just for sissies. Use them and indent (tab set for 3 spaces, please) every time someone talks.
  • Please don't use dialogue to have the main character set off on a boring and long rant on religion.
  • Not every noun needs two over-the-top, out-of-this-world adjectives. (Get it?)
  • You are allowed only two exclamation marks in the entire ms and they better not be next to each other!! (You win points with me if you use zero exclamation marks.)
  • You know that slick trick of having a blank line between paragraphs automatically appear and every paragraph flush with the margin? Don't do that in mss submitted to Cactus Rain Publishing. I hate it. That means when I turn it off, I have to put in the tabs for each paragraph. The reason for this post is that I just spend the better part of a day inserting tabs for each paragraph in a very long ms.
  • It is a BIG deal to add tabs to paragraphs when there are 2241 paragraphs in the ms that I'm working on at the moment. This really annoys me and it better be the world's best ever story...
I'm glad we had this little chat. Carry on with writing the next Great American Novel.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Where is this story heading?

When a manuscript (ms) is being considered for acquisition, the reading is focused. It is nothing like reading for pleasure. A matrix of evaluation questions are processing while the sample chapters are read, and on the odd occasion, when the full ms has been requested.
During this intensely focused reading, it is a jolt when someone's name changes three-quarters into the book. The same thing happens with weather, holidays, and people's age. It can be spring one minute and two pages later the season or weather involves leaves turning or walking through new fallen snow when the storyline has only progressed a few days.
It is very important that details that are added to create depth to the story do not detract from the reader’s enjoyment. The writer has to take the reader with them as they progress through the story, rather than jerk them around with gaps. The best thing to do is to write straight through, beginning to end because that is how the reader will approach the story. After the first draft is completed, then go back and do rewrites. The first draft provides the framework on which to build.
When I write, I do not allow myself to think about the story, unless I'm at the keyboard. It is too easy to let the story advance in one's mind and leave the reader out of the process. It creates jumps. Jumping around in the timeline is just plain sloppy writing. Yet quite a few people do it.
Organic writing flows better than working off of a strictly detailed outline. We will simply pass on the acquisition if the writing is mechanical, stiff, or weak. Write your best story. Submit your best draft.
I noticed this. Check it out.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Query Letter

I have been nearly worthless since just before Thanksgiving through the Christmas and New Year holidays having a grand time with my kids.
I said "nearly" not totally worthless. I did write a blog post, check email, and the odd book order or two from the printer.
With a dose of Catholic school gilt (yes, Sister, it still works after all of these years), I decided to ease into the week by reading a few query letters this evening. Considering the abandonment and fun-having, my brain was in a bit of a lull.
I've said it a million and one times, if you want your ms sample chapters read, write a great query letter.
So this guy writes a query letter. It starts with a remark that seems benign, but at the same time has a bit of intellectual tongue-in-cheek humor. I don't recommend this if it doesn't come naturally. But the guy had me. I read the letter and I'm not sure I would be otherwise interested in the ms if his query letter hadn't been so well written. It was professional. It was to the point. It was slightly relaxed, too. It made me like him. And most importantly, it did its job. It made me read his sample chapters when I wasn't really-truly going to work since it is Sunday evening.
The point is that it is important to put effort into learning how to write a killer query letter. How else are you going to get someone to read that fantastic manuscript that you wrote?
Search the Internet for query letter samples or search this blog for what I've said about them in the past.  It is worth your time and effort to bang out a great query letter.

Happy writing...