Thursday, April 28, 2011

Editing Your First Draft? Don't Forget Audience and Purpose!

Anne-Mhairi Simpson had an interesting post about what to expect from your first draft, and I wanted to comment on her experience. One paragraph in particular jumped out at me:

Now, if you’ve ever wondered about this, chances are you will have come across a huge amount of advice regarding the quality of your first draft and 99% of it will say exactly the same thing: that your first draft is 100% guaranteed to be a complete crock and you will need to do drastic re-writing and editing, including filling in numerous plot holes and wholesale murder of little darlings before you should even think about letting that beast see the light of day.
Perhaps it's irresponsible of me to say this, but some people don't need to tear apart their first draft in order to get to something good. Some authors will make a pass through to check for technical errors, and then call it good. Others will tweak and fiddle and agonize until they have something that's been revised so many times it bears absolutely no resemblance to the original.  Some people are never satisfied with their work, even if they started with something fantastic, and other writers will be pleased far too quickly by far too little. Editing too much can be just as detrimental to your novel as too little editing.

In an effort to smooth out the prose, fix all the grammar, remove passive voice, and expunge florid description, you may remove the very thing that makes the manuscript unique. When you "kill your darlings," don't kill yourself in the process. Your quirks contribute to your style, and sometimes a work is interesting for the reasons it "fails".

Different genres have different rules and expectations. When you edit your manuscript, consider what your audience wants to see, not simply what blogs call "good writing." As Anna-Mhairi discovered, what fails in one genre might be the strength in another genre. She went too far in one direction and lost the spark her readers loved up to that point. I think the primary lesson from her experience is to always let audience and purpose be your guide while editing. It's more important to find a style that works than it is to blindly follow writing advice.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Self-Publishing a Book to Snag an Agent? Not Likely.

A follower on twitter asked me to respond to a few different blog posts about self-publishing, querying agents, and “legacy” publishing. The Writer’s Digest article Life After Self-Publishing addresses the possibility of finding an agent for a self-published book, and it's…well, naïve pap. Sorry, but it is. If you’re self-publishing a book because you think it’s a great first step towards New York and traditional publishing success, you’re going to be in for a very rude surprise.

Publishing is a very, very conservative business. You know when agents say they only represent books they love and editors encourage people to write great books to get published? Sure, you can do that, but what they’re really saying is “Write a book I can sell.”
It’s challenging for a self-published book to move on to mainstream success. That’s why, for some authors, acquiring a literary agent to represent the book is often considered the next logical step.
That’s not true. An agent doesn’t want your self-published book. Not even a little bit. There are a few quotes from agents in the articles that indicate otherwise, but I’ve never seen anything to convince me that’s actually the case. Agent sell the first rights to publishers, and if you’ve already published your book anywhere in the world, they can’t sell those rights. The Writer’s Digest article never mentions that very fundamental point, and in many cases, it's a deal breaker.

Book Review: The King Whisperers

I was immediately intrigued by the concept behind Dr. Kerwin Swint’s The King Whisperers and I jumped into the text with a great deal of enthusiasm. Justified enthusiasm, as it turns out, because the book is engaging, informative, accessible, and even funny at times. It’s not a dry recounting of facts or historical biographies intended for academics or students. Anybody who has an interest in history, politics, violence, or drama and betrayal that outstrips any show on HBO, Showtime, or Starz would enjoy this book.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Random Bits of News: PCA/ACA Conference, Writing Guides, and Fellowships

Much is happening at ArchEditing this week.  The three of us are packing up and heading to San Antonio where Lindy and I will present papers at the Popular Culture Association/ American Culture Association Conference.  Haley is coming along, although she won't be presenting.  She'll be there to represent ArchEditing, to network and hobnob with the awesome academics who inevitably show up at this conference, and to promote our college writing guide, Put the Body on the Slab: the Anatomy of College Writing. 

Speaking of our writing guide, Haley and I will be putting together the second part in the coming weeks, The Anatomy of Analysis.  This part of the guide will focus on how to construct an analytical response to a text, and it will feature analytical papers written by myself and our minion Lindy.  If you're lucky, you might be able to expect some awesome analyses of Mad Men and/or zombie movies, with some fine art analyses thrown in there for good measure because that's how we role.

In other news, we are still looking for more writing interns, but we have found cover artists to add to our staff as we move into self-publishing services.  We're really excited about the self-publishing and about the amazing artists we now have on board for covers.  In the coming weeks we plan to feature a couple of blog posts about Mel and April, but for now you should check out their websites.

Finally, some personal news.  I found out last week that I've been awarded a fellowship at the University of Louisville beginning this fall for the Humanities PhD program.  That means I'll be moving from London to Kentucky, which might sound like a bit of a downgrade, but I intend to make the best of it.  The fellowship will at least allow me to finish my PhD and focus on ArchEditing without worrying so much about having money for food.

So there's some ArchEditing housekeeping and news. Let us know if you plan on attending the PCA/ACA conference this week in San Antonio.  We'd love to meet you!

Click here for your copy of Put the Body On the Slab: The Anatomy of College Writing, available for a limited time for only $2.99.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Pizza Post: Il Rosso

Jasie and I can be a bit competitive with each other. We push and encourage each other, providing support in little ways while we try to outsmart or out-perform the other. This weekend, we decided to challenge each other in a new field.


I've never made pizza from scratch. When I issued this challenge, I didn't know how to make dough, didn't even know what my favorite pizza toppings are (every time somebody asks me my brain freezes, and I blurt whatever comes to mind that doesn't seem too objectionable). Pretty much the only thing I can do is make tomato sauce (which I taught myself how to do since I hate tomato sauce). But I eagerly embraced the challenge, reasoning that no matter who won the prize for the best dish, we'd have two large pizzas. Which was enough of a prize for me.

In the end, I created something I called Il Rosso. It looked beautiful and it tasted even better. It was the best slice of pizza I ever had--I know I sound super modest--and I learned a very valuable lesson from the experience. It didn't matter that I had no idea what I was doing. I just made the most reasonable choices and carried on like everything would work out in the end. And it did. So here's the recipe for my delicious pizza.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday Five: British Comedy on Netflix Instant Watch

Hi everybody, I'm Lindy, the main minion for Arch Editing, and sometimes I have thoughts about things. I will be posting on Fridays from time to time when Haley and Jasie don't feel like writing a blog post. Today 
we'll be looking at the wonderful world of British sit coms and sketch comedy.

That Mitchell and Webb Look
I was watching this show a few days ago with Jasie because she had not seen the third series yet. I laughed at every joke and I have seen the third series at least five times. You may know David Mitchell and Robert Webb from Peep Show, which is one of the funniest sitcoms made in the last ten years. Their sketch comedy isn’t always as funny as Peep Show, but there are some true gems. Any sketch in which David yells at someone (especially the posh waiter and vicar sketches) are gold, Sir Digby Chicken Ceasar is a hilarious recurring sketch that never gets old, and Numberwang is delightful and insane.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Showing and Telling: How to Create Active Narratives

Not all of us are novelists, but I can guarantee that we are all story-tellers.  We both experience our world and communicate our experiences through narrative.  When someone asks what you did yesterday, she is asking for a narrative that you're likely to provide: I woke up, went for a run, did laundry and wrote all afternoon.

Most fiction, novels, short stories, etc, come in narrative form, but not all narratives are created equal.  The above example is a very simple narrative, but it is also a very boring narrative.  While it is completely reasonable to share these types of simple narratives to convey information, when it comes to fiction there is a huge difference between telling a story and showing a story.  Below are some tips (many of which I've learned while reading Self-Editing for Fiction Writers) to help you create more active narratives in your creative writing.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

New Self-Publishing Services From Arch Editing

Last week at the Romance Times Convention, I spoke to many authors, editors, and industry professionals. People were interested in our editing services, but what I heard again and again was a demand for self-publishing services. Not that I'm particularly surprised! There were more panels for self-publishing this year than ever before, including a well-attended panel by HP Mallory on how to sell 100,000 self-published books. Even authors who are quite happy with their publishers are looking into self-publishing out of print titles or free reads for their regular readers.

As a result, we've added more self-publishing services to Arch Editing. We've lowered the cost of fiction editing, and we've added formatting for digital outlets, as well as cover art design. Once I'm more comfortable with the marketing aspect, we'll probably branch out to include that as well. I'm really excited about these additional services! It's an exciting time to be a writer right now, with more options for publication than ever before, and I'm happy to provide whatever support and assistance I can.

I've also started a group called Daily Editing Tips at the new ARe Cafe. I love the Cafe, I think it's a brilliant idea and format for a community, and I'm already looking forward to seeing you there.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

5 Life Lessons from the Romance Times Convention

Haley spent last week in LA at the Romance Times Booklovers Convention, and while we missed her and nothing got done at Arch Editing without her home, it sounds like good times were had at RT.  But RT is not just a big party.  It's one of the biggest romance author and reader conventions in the country, a place for people in the industry to network and make connections with other authors, agents and readers.  I asked Haley what she learned or accomplished at the convention and she gave me five lessons that I thought would be helpful for writers who are planning a future trip to a writing convention or conference. 
  • A smile and a friendly word will open a lot of doors. Publishing is a business about who you know, and you never know when you're making an important new friend.
  • Agents can sense desperation. They're much more responsive when you're not there to sell them anything at all, strangely enough.
  • Make it a point to eat breakfast every single morning. When you're at a busy conference, there's never any guarantee you'll get fed again until dinner.
  •  It's a very small world. I found a cousin, Vivien found somebody from her hometown, and I watched two women realize they used to be neighbors. And in every small connection and delightful coincidence, there are hundreds of stories.
  •  It's always better to dance, to drink, to laugh, especially if you're with hundreds of like-minded fellow authors.

Monday, April 11, 2011

National Poetry Month: A Supermarket in California

I was first introduced to Allen Ginsberg my sophomore year in an American Literature course. My professor played a recording of Howl, and since we had time left that day, he played the mp3 for A Supermarket in California as well. Howl was amazing, of course. But something about the second poem grabbed me by the throat and refused to let me go. Perhaps it was the opening lines.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Setting Writing Goals and Planning for Success

As I mentioned yesterday, I've recently decided to expand a paper into a book.  It will be a non-fiction cultural analysis of the myth surrounding the band Joy Division and their enduring impact on contemporary popular culture, thirty years after their lead singer Ian Curtis committed suicide.  The paper I wrote is 4000 words and provides me with an expandable introduction and a rough outline of how I want the book to fall into place.  Now, all I have to do is write it.  Then revise it.  Then revise it again.  And while it is not the thing that concerns me the most at this point, I'd also like to have it published. 

This is all new to me, and I'm learning a lot as I go.  Haley, who has been publishing for the last 6 years has a bit more experience and is helping me along the way, and she's told me that I need to set writing goals if I want to have a finished product within my lifetime. I've taken her advice and done some research and am now ready to set those goals.  Here's what I've learned and what I plan on doing. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Setting Writing Goals: What's the Point?

I recently wrote a paper for one of my PhD classes about a favorite band, Joy Division.  The research was fascinating, and the topic was one I'd been thinking of writing about for years now, but had never had the opportunity.  I didn't want to stop researching or writing, and I felt that the final paper was more of an outline for a book than a self contained essay.  So, with Haley's encouragement, I've decided to expand it and turn it into a book. 

I'm not really intimidated by the thought of writing a book, but I think it's because I'm naïve and have never written anything longer than a master's thesis.  I mean, how hard can it be? Isn't it just like writing ten 20 page papers?  Haley informs me that no, it's not like that.   She also told me that I needed to start setting writing goals if I wanted to actually start writing the book, let alone finish it.   But, why would I need writing goals, I asked her, can't I just write when I feel like writing, when I have some spare time?  She laughed at me.

National Poetry Month: The Highwayman

It's National Poetry Month and I wanted to do something special to celebrate on the blog. I suggested to Jasie we should each pick a handful of poems that mean something to us, but she seemed less than enthused about the idea. When I questioned her, I learned she didn't have any poems that held special significance to her. I already had a list of a half dozen in my head, I figured everybody would have a similar, if smaller, list. Now I've reevaluated my assumption, I think everybody should have at least one poem that speaks to them, that inspires or challenges them. It doesn't have to be Important Literature. Poetry can be fun, too. The first poem on my list may not have an literary value whatsoever, but it's near and dear to my heart.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Romance Times Convention 2011 Los Angeles

We've been quiet for the past couple of days because we've actually been offline for once. Jasie arrived in Utah late Thursday night and since then we've had to run errands, go on a shopping spree, take hundreds of pictures, have a birthday party, and spend one day walking around in mild spring weather and the next driving through a blizzard. But we'll be back to our regular schedule tomorrow, which will include special features to celebrate National Poetry Month.

I'm also busily preparing for the Romance Times Convention in Los Angeles. I'm really excited about it because it's always a blast and there are so many people I can't wait to see and catch up with. I hope to post regular updates from the convention featuring some of the best names in romance, urban fantasy, and more. I can't make any promises, though. I may get sidetracked at the bar.

Saturday April 9 is the Romance Times Book Fair. There are going to be 300 authors there, and one of those faces in the crowd will be mine. So if you're in the LA area and you love romance or meeting awesome people, you should come by the Westin Bonaventure Hotel and Resort and say hi.