Sunday, February 20, 2011

GOOD NEWS FOR NEW AUTHORS

For about two years, we’ve been hearing all sorts of “cutting edge” news about the writing industry, and it’s only getting hotter. E-books will kill publishers. Print books will never make room for e-books, and on and on and on.
Everyone has an opinion, and we know what that means. So who and what do we believe? If bigger houses will only look at established writers, and agents want established writers, where does that leave the rest of us?

DON’T LOOK NOW, THERE’S GOOD NEWS FOR NEW AUTHORS!

Terry Burns of Hartline Literary Agency
has been bumped to the top of the list by Publishers Marketplace as the “go-to” agent for new authors. His track record is amazing!(I’m slightly prejudiced since I am one of his clients, but I couldn’t agree more)

So how about publishers?

Just more good news. A few smaller presses are taking on new clients as we speak. One in particular that is growing faster than weeds, where you don’t have to wade through an erotic section to get to inspirational, is White Rose Publishing, where faith is the cornerstone of love.
For full length novels, they will do print and e-book. Hmm, sounds like this might be the best of both worlds.

Nicola Martinez is Editor-in-chief and as such, has set the guidelines with a godly standard in mind. I asked Ms. Martinez if I could pass along some of the writing tips she and her staff of editors offer on their site to help writers know what they expect in submissions. She agreed, and so for the next few posts, I will be reprinting writing tips from White Rose and their staff. Take the time to read them over, you won’t be sorry.

Following is the Big Bad Editor’s List Of Pet Peeves # 1 by MJ West, with permission of Nicola Martinez, White Rose Publishing:

The Big Bad Editor's List Of Pet Peeves I
I have a lot of pet peeves. I plan to highlight the big ones for this series of articles. The rest I'm willing to work with to find a viable compromise between the author and myself. And honestly, although I prefer great grammar and punctuation, I will not reject your story because you missed a comma or misspelled a word (however, this doesn't mean you can send me a poorly edited manuscript). So, with that said, we shall concentrate on my Pet Peeves. And the Number One Spot goes to...(drumroll)...

BACKSTORY.

Nearly every newbie author (including myself back in the day) is guilty of back story. Back story is when one set ups a scene to tell the reader all about the hero or the heroine before the actual story. Because one is trying to capture the reader's attention, one wants them to understand and identify with the heroine/hero. That's almost always how to TELL a story. Think about it. Remember the stories you told your kids?

"Once upon a time, there was a little girl whose Grandmother was sick. She baked some goodies for Grandma, put them in a basket, put on her little red jacket with hood and headed out the door. Stepping onto the forest path, she met a wolf..."

But in romance, it works better to SHOW a story. Start the story in the middle of the action, preferably when the hero/heroine or protagonists meet.

"Hello, my pretty." The wolf's eyes gleamed as he eyed the girl's basket. He licked his chops as drool ran down his chin. (Right away we can see that this is the Bad Guy - his personal hygiene habits alone tell us his character).

"Hello," Little Red Riding Hood said in a polite tone, furiously thinking that the loaf of bread in her basket simply wasn't an adequate weapon. (Smart, bakes and can multi-task. Obviously, the heroine).

Even if the meeting isn't auspicious, it actually sets the stage you were striving for in the back story. The wolf is established as the bad guy. Little Red Riding Hood is established as being the heroine in deep trouble. The reader has just entered the comfort zone of reading. Reader immediately knows the actors on the page, and is ready to identify with the heroine. The door is open. The page must be turned.

And that, my pretties, is right where you want the reader to be. So excited that turning the page cannot be helped. How many times has someone interrupted you right at the Big Moment in a book or movie? Your job, as a writer, is to make every single chapter have a Big Moment. Or two...or twenty. Keep that page turning.

Don't bore me with the story of how Little Red Riding Hood's grandmother made that coat by going to a specialty store to buy the woolen fabric in that specific shade of cherry red, and how she bought real bone buttons and lined it with silk because LRRH was such a special little girl, what with baking Granny treats and doing the housework and fluffing pillows and all. Granny is a secondary character. She can be mentioned, but I don't want her life story, her choices or her pet peeves even mentioned in the book, okay? Well, unless you can do it in a paragraph or less, as it relates to the hero/heroine. There is no reason to know why Granny made the coat. She's Granny, LRRH is her granddaughter. Grannies do that kind of thing. That is sufficient for readers to know by inference.

Write tight. Your goal is to use as few words as possible to convey character and action. You want to punch the reader in the eyeballs with everything that will make them keep reading down the page and to the next.

The master of writing some of the best first lines ever was Louis L'Amour. Next time you go to the bookstore or library pick up a few of his books and read.

"When I rode up to the buffalo wallow, Pa was lying there with his leg broke, and his horse gone." (END OF THE DRIVE - Louis & Katherine L'Amour Trust)

In that single sentence, the writer conveys a sense of urgency, a sense of responsibility, a sense of trouble, and the need to solve the problem fast. And the reader is off and running - reading as fast as possible to find out what happens.

Louis didn't go into back story, he hopped right into the action, left the reader staring at the page thinking "My goodnes, WHAT HAPPENED?" And then they find themselves reading all day and finishing the book at 2 a.m. knowing they have to go to work tomorrow.

As you continue writing the book, and at this point, I'll talk specifically about romance, you must keep the hero and heroine together. Do not go off on a tangent about how the hero's long lost brother shows up with three kids and a dog, and how the hero loved his brother's wife back in the day and now must mourn her passing but is charmed by his brother's daughter because she looks so much like her mother, a pretty girl with brown eyes and blonde hair who sang as sweetly as a lark, loved dogs, and could bake the best apply pie this side of Sara Lee. (It is almost Thanksgiving, I'm into baking metaphors).

The reader doesn't want to know all that. The reader is looking for the romance - the reader wants to see the relationship develop between hero and heroine. Hero and heroine. Hero. And. Heroine. You can allow a little back story as they interact with each other. He can tell her about losing someone he loved. He doesn't need to go into detail. She can see a photo of Mom and notice that the little girl looks like Mom and the hero seems to have a soft spot for the kid. But then, you must revert back to hero and heroine and how THEIR relationship is growing. What are they doing? What are they feeling? What is happening? How do they react when it happens? Do they take action? If so, is it a resolution? If not, why not? Will there be a resolution later? Why the delay?

Every time an author introduces a secondary character, the potential for back story is set. Resist! If you must use a secondary character, give the reader bare bones. A quick paragraph about their meaning in the hero or heroine's life, and then move back to hero and heroine. Don't give them a life history. Don't give them "air-time" in a story about Hero and Heroine. If they have a story, write another book about them.

Don't give Hero and Heroine much back story, either. Heroine's story before meeting hero is hers alone. Hero's story before meeting heroine is his alone. But this story...this story is about them. Together. Developing a relationship in the present. This is their story. Write it wisely.

I hope you enjoyed and took to heart the suggestions by the editor. White Rose is the romance sister site to Harbourlight Books, which publishes novels in many genres outside the realm of romance.

9 comments:

  1. GREAT post. I'll definitely be back for the follow-ups. Thanks, Linda!

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  2. These are some wonderful tips! Thank you so much for posting all the great information.

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  3. Wish I could take credit, but it belongs to their editors. Glad you enjoyed.

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  4. Thanks, Linda, for an encouraging post!

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  5. Linda,
    thanks for the post! See you on April 16th in Lansing!
    Sue

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  6. Oh, BTW....I just received e-mail regarding the ACFW semi-finalists...congrats!!!
    (That's how I came to read your blog today and came across this article.)

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  7. Linda, after reading your pet peeves, you made me cry about my story. It does contain some of your No-nos. And to me, that shows how much of the truth you're saying. The truth hurts but it will set you free! (And maybe make your book sell like mad). Now let me tell you the back story of what my story is all about.... lol

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