Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Axe That Prologue!

Was at dinner Sunday, and a woman across the table had just read Twin Motives, a book I edited. She loved it. I was thrilled.

My team of editors had a quick discussion last Friday about a 2,000-word piece one of my colleagues had sent around. It was the first 2,000 words of one of her mss.

What a great discussion. From 2,000 words came the topics:

When a prologue and/or epilogue is unnecessary
Showing v. telling
Religiosity – when is a book over the top; how do you approach it; one way is to address character flaws as well as realistic dialogue
When a character is too perfect – what makes a good hero
Narrative breaks

Not only were these great topics to discuss, but I was able to see how each of my team members would have tackled the book. I was the only one who said the prologue gets the axe. And I was right.

I see more of these meetings in our team's future.

Monday, January 19, 2009

the day of the purple dress

STATUS REPORT: Tired after a long day. Looking forward to moving offices Thursday. Need to do some cleanups tomorrow lest I fall too far behind on my to-do list. Losing the light at the end of this month's tunnel but know it's there. It always is.

Worked on a long MS today. It's good. I jibe with what the authors are saying. (This is nonfiction.) However, the book is 116,000 words long and needs some serious cutting. It's not been too difficult thus far. However, I feel brain cells dying daily. This baby is making me stupid. I had a lot of trouble focusing today on what, on a normal, non-pregnant day, would have been easy thinking and reading. I would have left work rejuvinated and ready to get home to one of my side reading ventures. I love to read. Instead I left work mentally exhausted. Hopefully it was but one bad day.

Bad day nothwithstanding, I still rocked that MS.

There are few things more fulfilling than making great edits on a book and knowing the author is going to put forth the effort to take his or her book to the next level. Good writers work with their editors, trust their editors. I'm not saying I'm perfect, but I am saying that you should have a dialogue with me, and just as much as I should listen to you and care about your vision for your book, you should hear my vision and care about what I have to say. After all, I have your book's best interest in mind. We should work together to meet the objective of putting the best book we can on the market. That is what partnership publishing is all about, folks.

I love my job.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Cliffhanger

MORNING REPORT: Team meeting to discuss issues, questions, and exciting new ideas. Went well. Topics discussed included: title length, passive voice, how soon should dialogue show up in a novel, and cliffhangers.

One of my editors asked me today, "Do you have a particular book you could show me that does a really good job of switching scenes?"

Me: ???

Then she said, "All of my authors tend to do things like write, 'And back to such-and-such,' or 'Back in Detroit...' to denote setting or scene change."

I cringed.

"That is sad," I said.

We then got into a conversation about cliffhangers, hooks, and stopping in the middle of action at the end of a chapter. This seems obvious to me, but I guess I do run across a lack of it in books at times. Fortunately, I've not had to deal with the "Back at Sarah's house, Joni was cooking dinner when..." issue.

So, how does a writer keep the reader clear when they're switching settings a lot? Well, first, is the story structured well? But then come to mind things like: they've got good characters that the reader doesn't have trouble remembering. They have good conflict. They employ the use of narrative and chapter breaks. They end their chapters with HOOKS!

I don't know how many times I've written to an author "No hook" at the end of a chapter. I've probably written this before here, but if your character is going to bed at the end of chapter two, so is your reader. What you really want is for your reader to NEED to turn that page and read chapters three and four, etc. If you stop a chapter in the middle of a question or great action and then switch to a different setting, the reader shouldn't have as much trouble finding their way back when you come back to said conflict question later.

There's obviously more to this, but these are the first few things that come to mind.

Now to editing...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Look at that foot!

Wow. What a moment. The ultrasound technician, who surely has a more professional title that I don't know, points at the screen and says, "Have any guesses?"

I knew right away. It was a girl.

"Yes. It's a girl."

Collin, from over my shoulder, practically shouts, "No way!" And tears of joy or something are running down my cheeks. I can't believe it. I'm going to be a mommy. I'm going to have a little girl.

Collin is going to be such a fantastic father, and she is going to love him so much. Her name is Drue (middle name pending). Drue Barnes. And she's a cutie pie.