Posts tagged pubtip
Posts tagged pubtip
We know that writing can be a complicated craft. Sometimes the juices won’t flow, sometimes we hit a stumbling block and we need to muster all our strength to keep going. Other times, the words just seem to pour out. Writing is a skill, and luckily for us, it can be cultivated. We can try harder, learn new things, improve, edit and create something people will enjoy reading.
In that spirit, we have asked Paul Taunton, Senior Editor for The Knopf Random Canada Publishing Group, to share with us the five most common writing mistakes he sees time and time again.
1. Following the trends too closely. Publishers are often asked about what is trending, and what the next trend is. But the bottom line is, if you start writing when something is trending, you’re bound to miss it. Furthermore, a trend is started when something is original and refreshing, and that’s what you should be going for in the first place. The trend starter is usually the one that has the most success. And why not be original?
2. Marketing your writing before it’s done. Of course your peers are interested in what you’re working on, but there’s not much a publisher or publication can usually do with an unfinished project—and one of the main things they want to know is whether you can finish it. It can also be tempting to start marketing your work when you’re stuck because it feels productive: instead, find another way to get re-inspired.
3. Emphasizing style too much over story. Though a beautiful line is always great, story is what often motivates people to keep reading a novel. Writers sometimes trust that the quality of their prose or a few amazing passages will make up for weaknesses on other areas, but that’s not necessarily the case. And even if it is, why not make your novel as strong as it can be on all fronts?
4. Writing without adequate background. No, you don’t have to be a cop to write about cops. You don’t have to have siblings to write about siblings. But keep in mind that successful writers often have vocations or relationships that inform their writing—or they’ve done a lot of research. Usually the small details that make a story realistic are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the research the author has done, or the knowledge and experience that they have. A quick disclaimer, though: don’t go overboard and never finish your novel because you’re investigating everything in the world that possibly relates to it.
5. Paying too close attention to rules (including the above). Take advice for what it’s worth and how you think it can make you a better writer—don’t treat it as a formula for success. Your own ideas and convictions are ultimately worth much more, especially when they’re backed up by thoughtful consideration.
I tweeted some advice about synopsis a couple nights ago while I was struggling to write cover copy for Carina Press from a not-very-complete synopsis. Since it got retweeted a bunch, thought I’d share and expand on my thoughts a bit here. The original tweets are in bold.
“Trying to write copy for a romance novel when the synopsis doesn’t include a lot about the romance & characters’ emotions is very difficult.”
This happens way more often than you’d think. Authors sometimes get too caught up with plot or external conflict details and don’t mention enough about their internal conflict and how their relationship develops alongside the other action.
“For acquisition and copywriting, synopses that cover both plot & characters’ emotional journey are much more helpful.”
For romances, my personal preference is a roughly 50/50 split between plot and emotion — something happens, followed by the characters’ reaction to it and how it impacts their relationship.
Tell us why the characters are attracted to each other (besides good looks), too.
We know the h/h will find the other attractive…but that’s not enough to convince us or the reader that the characters are unique and that they will have an HEA. Phrases like “their attraction grows” are too general. What makes it grow? What about the h/h’s personality appeals to the other?
* * *
Harlequin editors also wrote a great post about writing synopses for So You Think You Can Write. Read it here.
Last week was Harlequin’s “writing boot camp week”, So You Think You Can Write. Yesterday I posted links to my favorite events and advice but But out of everything, my biggest tip for aspiring Harlequin romance writers is:
Know the line you want to write!
Probably the most frequent question to our editors was “My story has X, will it fit Y series?”
It’s an understandable question for writers attending the SYTYCW events to learn more about Harlequin, especially since Harlequin series romances have their own requirements but can seem very similar to one another (e.g. Harlequin Intrigue and Harlequin Romantic Suspense).
Other times an aspiring author would talk about a series they were targeting in their manuscript, but then say something that gave away they didn’t really know what kinds of books that line published. For example, someone asked if there could be sex in our inspirational romance series when there never is. It was clear that the writer didn’t actually read the imprint they were trying to write for. Reading the line extensively will help build an instinct for the tone, subject matter, and heat level of the series.
How to determine which series is right for you:
1) Read the writing guidelines.
2) Listen to Meet the Editor podcasts.
3) Read the “What Series Am I?” chat transcript.
4) Ask yourself which series you like to read the most — chances are that’s what you will write best.
5) Read, read, read! Not sure if your story will fit the series? Read that line extensively — a variety of titles and authors because each writer and book is different, even if they fit they same general guidelines — to get a sense of what that line publishes.
Last week was Harlequin’s “writing boot camp week”, So You Think You Can Write and the writing contest is now open at www.sytycw.com (winner gets a publishing contract!). All past events (blog posts, chat transcripts, videos, etc.) can also be found in the SYTYCW archive.
Here are the events I liked the best and thought have some really useful advice:
1) How to Find the Essence of Your Plot in Two Sentences: Blog by editor Emily Rodmell about how to really zero in on what your story is about in order to write a great query or pitch. Read the comments for critiques of real pitches by Emily.
2) The Dreaded Synopsis: A blog post with advice on writing a strong synopsis, a challenge even published authors struggle with!
3) Looking for Love blog and chat: Some information about 3 newer Harlequin series in need of new writers (though all series are looking for new talent!) and transcript of a chat with their editors.
4) Let’s Talk About Sex chat transcript: Everything you wanted to know about sex in series romance from some people who weren’t afraid to ask! Definitely the most fun event :)
5) Editor Turn Ons and Turn Offs: 3 editors share their pet peeves and what catches their eye in submissions in a Twitter chat transcript.
6) Making the Most of Your Happy Ending: Blog post by editor Patience Bloom about how to write a great romance ending while avoiding cliches.
If you’re an aspiring author, Angela James #editreport tweets provide great insight into what editors think when rejecting — or acquiring — a manuscript. Here is a longer report from Angela that couldn’t fit into 140 characters:
I do a monthly #editreport on Twitter (more info here) and sometimes there are longer reports that I want to share, but it would be impossible on Twitter, with the character limitation. So, instead, I’m going to post them here so you can see more in-depth insight from the editors about…
Here’s one I understand the emotion behind, but just wish authors would sit on their hands to avoid doing. If you get a rejection letter, please don’t send a response that says “oh, that’s okay, I’ve already self-published/contracted/published it somewhere else and it’s doing GREAT!”
This is a follow-up to a post I did back in August 2011, Why Some Manuscripts Get Rejected. Since then, I’ve received more editorial reports with some new insights about why some books didn’t make the cut:
Some positive comments from submissions:
For some reason I can’t reblog Query Quagmire, but I did want to share this post where someone asked how a new author can query a series of books when publishers traditionally don’t commit to a series of books from a newbie author without some serious representation. Read QQ’s response here.
What I liked about this answer is that other than stating the obvious to pitch one book at a time (similar to what I’ve said here), QQ gives a few different scenarios about how to approach the issue including advice on how to mention that you a plan a series if you really want to that without scaring off the editor/agent.
1) A leaked document from Hachette posted at Digita Book World lays out their arguments why publishers are still relevant.
2) Author Chuck Wendig, who has self-published six novels, explains why self-publishing something to get it out quickly isn’t always the best move in his post “The Seduction of Self-Publishing” (via Angela James).
4) There are now 8 days left to enter Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write writing contest…
5) The Harlequin Historical authors are doing their second annual massive Advent Calendar giveaway. Details and calendar here.
6) And speaking of Angela James, she did another #editreport on Twitter today. Read all the tweets on Storify here.