Sunday, February 22, 2009
Last Chance to Get it Right!
’TIS THE SEASON FOR SEDUCTION
It is the most anticipated event of the ton: the annual holiday ball at Hartwell House. The music is elegant, the food exquisite, and the guest list absolutely exclusive. Some come looking for love. Some will do almost anything to avoid it. But everyone wants to be there. No matter what their desires, amid the swirling gowns and soft glow of candlelight, magic tends to happen. And one dance, one kiss, one night can shape a new destiny….
The manuscript for my Christmas novella is due March 1st. I'm doing my self-edits now. This is my last chance to get it right before my editor takes her licks at it.
I start with the beginning. I want to make sure my opening sentence raises a question in my reader's mind. (For instance, the first sentence in VEXING THE VISCOUNT is "I wonder if that's life size.")
Then I check my first chapter to see if I've bogged it down with too much back-story. If I have, I slash it now. I want to hit the ground running and not look back. I need to know what's come before. My readers only need the barest hint--only what's absolutely necessary for them to continue. (I'm giving away my secrets here!) Keeping my reader slightly off balance, wondering why something is happening or why a character is acting in an unusual manner is a good way to keep the pages turning. And that is my goal.
My DH married a hooker. (Relax. I'm talking about writing hooks.) These are tantalizing bits of information that create a path for my readers. If I work it right, I can literally pull my reader forward through the story. (This is what keeps readers up nights.)
I check my prose. Am I using passive voice? Hope not. Lots of helping verbs? Weak. I circle every word ending in "ly" and cut till there's no more than one or two per page. I replace adjectives and adverbs with descriptive verbs and specific nouns.
I read my story aloud. (Often to my long-suffering DH!) I hear the echoes of over-used words my eyes miss. Any sentence I have to take a breath to finish is too long. I cut it in half.
How much white space is there on each page? Am I too heavy on narrative and too light on dialogue? Does my dialogue need tags or can I tell who's speaking based on their speech patterns?
Can I smell my scenes? I want to help my reader walk in the heroine's shoes. I need to give her enough sensory details to know where she is and how to feel about it.
When I've polished my story till I'm sick of it, I turn it over to someone whose judgment I trust for a first read. (This is generally not a relative or someone like my DH, who wants to continue sleeping with me!) Then I prepare myself for suggested changes. I can't be defensive. I listen and consider carefully. I didn't come down the mountain with the story carved in stone. I'll revise if I decide I agree with my first reader.
Then I turn my manuscript over to my editor and the whole process starts again!
The Christmas anthology won't be available till September 29th, but VEXING THE VISCOUNT will be out February 24th! There's still time for you to win a signed copy. Just leave me a comment or question here today!
One of my Blog Touristas wants to know . . .
"When does one want to create a web page? As an aspiring author or after you're published? When is the right time to do this as a writer? We were going to ask this in Bobbi's class (She's talking about the Aspiring Writing Classes April 20-21 before the RT Convention in Orlando!) but some of us are impatient LOL!"~Jane L
I'm glad you asked, Jane. When I was first starting, green and hungry for knowledge, I went to RWA Nationals in NYC. I met another aspiring writer who had a brochure of her work made up. It was slick and glossy. She had a fabulous headshot of herself and mock covers for 5 or 6 books. She was very excited about this marketing piece, but all I could think at the time was--she hasn't sold a single manuscript yet and she's trumpeting the fact that she has several that haven't sold. I've heard editors say until you sell, you don't need a website. I did not have a website prior to selling, but that was in 2005.
Then there's the other camp that talks about the importance of building a "platform"--a body of people who will rush out and buy your book when it sells. This is a compelling argument because publishing is a tough, competitive business and authors live or die by the sell-through. (If you wanted it sugar-coated, I'm sorry, but that's the truth.) So I think, economic conditions being what they are, it is becoming increasingly important for aspiring writers to build a platform.
However, I'm not sure a static website is the best way to do it. The whole point is to connect with people so MySpace or Facebook might be a better choice. Or starting a blog like this one.
If you want to do a whole website, make a blog-style portion the hub of it. I have a couple pre-published friends who have terrific sites. Check out Erin Eisenberg and Kelli Estes. Their blogs are personal, fun and invite readers to get to know them better without beating them over the head about their writing. They also look professional. If an editor is looking hard at their manuscript with aquisition in mind and they google these gals, they are going to like what they see.
But here's my note of caution. Building a website is very timeconsuming. So is blogging and hitting the social networks. Whatever you do, don't let building your platform take too much time from your actual writing. (My own page count has suffered of late, but fortunately I'm in the brainstorming phase which allows me to tell myself I'm thinking about my next WIP and that's what I need to do right now.)
Besides, I've had great fun on the blogtour and we should always make room for fun. If a writer doesn't have a life, she has nothing to write about.
Here endeth the lesson . . .
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