My Thoughts, Self-editing Tips

When You Care, Send the Very Best

This is going to be a short post. Because, quite frankly, the topic only needs a few words. Here they are: Never* send an editor or agent a first draft. I could end the post right there. But just in case there’s a lingering “huh?” out there somewhere, I’ll elaborate with three reasons for this common-sense advice. First drafts, even really good ones, typically still suffer from fixable plot and character problems. It doesn’t matter that your writing is excellent, such problems signal impatience to editors and agents. It’s good be be known for your passion and your dedication to…

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General, Other Writer's Words, Self-editing Tips, The Publishing Process

Breaking the Rules

Just yesterday, an Internet friend asked me to read his short story and offer him a little editorial advice. Sometimes I get nervous when friends ask me to read their writing, but I’d shared enough of a conversation with him to expect he’d know his way around words. I was right. Even though it was a first draft, the observational story (non-fiction, but with the textures of a great fiction piece) had plenty of bite and surprising depth. One of the things that struck me about his story was the manner in which he introduced dialogue for the various characters.…

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Contests, Meaningless Drivel, My Favorite Things, My Thoughts

Titles, a Sentence and Contest Plans

Friday Item The First – Titles I like book titles. I make them up all the time. In fact, most of my short stories began as nothing more than a title. If you’ve memorized James Scott Bell’s Plot & Structure, you know that on page 38 he lists “making up titles” as a great way to spark plot ideas. Well, continuing the spirit of generosity I began yesterday, I thought I’d just go ahead and give you five titles.* Now all you have to do is write a great novel around them. You can do that, right? Kick the Mountain The…

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Beyond Categorization, Meaningless Drivel

Free Book Ideas For You

A few years back when I was working in a real office and enjoying the perks of the cubicle life, I had a particularly prolific creative season during which I came up with lots of ideas for books that I was going to write someday. (Note to former boss: All these ideas occurred during my lunch hour.) So I compiled a list. (Um, during my lunch hour, of course.) When the season of idea abbondanza was finally over, my list had grown to 150 titles. Yes, 150. Last night, after accidentally looking in the mirror and remembering how old I am…

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Beyond Categorization, Meaningless Drivel, My Thoughts, The Publishing Process, The Writer's Life

10 Stages of Grief: The Editor’s Note Edition

So let’s say you’ve made it through the first hoops and now your Amazing and Brilliant First Novel is sitting on the desk of a Real Life Editor at a Real Live Publishing House. Your contract has been framed and placed on the fireplace mantle between your dusty wedding photo and dustier 5th Grade Spelling Bee Champion trophy. You’ve spent the first part of your advance on the clothes you just have to have for that inevitable booksigning at the Barnes & Noble in Lincoln, Nebraska. And you’ve ordered business cards that list your occupation as “Author” to replace the…

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My Thoughts, Self-editing Tips

Bend and Break

One of the more common problems I run into when editing fiction is the “dimensionless character.” You know her. She’s defined by…um…her lack of definition. She’s a paper doll trying to make a splash in a three-dimensional world. Now, when I say “lack of definition,” I don’t mean she’s not well described (though sometimes this is also true). That she has pink streaks in her midnight-black hair is a fine detail, but it is a meaningless (and potentially unnecessary) detail unless we know enough about her to care why she has those streaks. Perhaps it’s evidence of a rebellious nature.…

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My Thoughts, Other Writer's Words, Self-editing Tips

The Mysterious Importance of Mystery

Not so many years ago, my younger son became a fascinated by videogames. Like his older brother before him, this fascination grew into a full-blown addiction for a time. But unlike his brother – who suffered through the challenges of finishing a level using the age-old technique known as “if at first you don’t succeed, stomp your feet, pout, growl, try out a new word to see if your parents notice, then try again” – my younger son was known to ask, “is there a cheat code for this?” Younger son has always been rather pragmatic; he likes order and…

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