Feb 19 2009

Wading through feedback

Most of you know I sent my manuscript to a freelance editor, who in turn told me to call it a “fiction novel.”

I’m over it.

This person could have offered me cold hard cash to call it a fiction novel, I’d sooner call it a cheesesteak than a fiction novel, but that’s just me. And yes, I know, that no matter what I call it if it’s good it’s good and if it sucks it sucks.

So I just want to explain how everything in my life goes back to listening to my own instincts. You know, those quiet thoughts that pass through your head when you’re sort of not paying attention. As my best friend will attest, I’m smart but I’m not always queen-of-the-comeback. It takes time for me to process information and to think of something to say. Which is very much in sync with the fact that I’m a thinker. At times in the past something has happened and I’ve thought — “I knew that was going to happen.” Then I remember the inkling or feeling or thought or vision that ran through my body or mind and how, had I actually stopped and paid attention, I actually had more information than I thought I did. In the past 7 years I’ve gotten better at this. I listen and process these inklings and thoughts. Or that’s my intention.

Yesterday when I read the “introductory” email and report from this editor I hired, my initial reaction (after the first paragraph) was that it sounded like a form letter. It was well-disguised, but not well enough. It was not a good first impression of the product I had received via email. But I continued. The feedback made some suggestions that could possibly make sense. Other bits of feedback made no sense. And I enjoy and welcome feedback – good, solid, rip-it-apart-start-over-again feedback. The feedback was often contradictory. A relationship that made no sense to the editor on one of the feedback pages, was noted for being very well-developed on the next. A person the editor noted should be the mc’s romantic interest, is indeed so.

And then I came to the part where calling the book a “fiction novel” in my query was strongly suggested. And I felt like I had the second half of that set of bad-vibe bookends.

So when in an email from my friend Christina, she said, “she’s trying to put your book into too much of a formula,” I knew she was right.

Formula. Form letter. I felt that right from the get-go, didn’t I?

While the feedback appeared highly personalized with corresponding page numbers and characters’ names and places, it was mostly generic stuff. Some of it made sense, and I will read and reread those parts to make sure that what I want to say is really being said.

I feel fortunate to have used this editor in a way. I’ll wade through the comments and suggestions and it will make me use all my writer common sense and savvy to decide not only what works for me, but what doesn’t — and why it doesn’t. The nail in the editorial coffin was that this person rewrote the first lines of my novel — and they were not good. And it’s not subjective. I know when someone improves my work. I love that like Pop Tarts.

I’m open to changing those lines, of course, when the editor who’s publishing my book demands it.

My blog made it onto Alltop.  It’s at the bottom, but still on Alltop.  I know it’s a good thing, right?  I’m there with other writing bloggers and maybe more cool writing bloggers will find their way here and join in on the rip-roaring good time we’re all having.

Jan 22 2009

The attack of the dialogue tags

Authors hear voices.  Their characters speak to them.  And if they do it right, the characters also speak to one another.  It’s called dialogue.

Dialogue can move a scene along, show emotion, answer questions, provide a break in prose.

But when it comes to he said, she said…what say you?

I read some where at some time that simple is best when it comes to dialogue tags, so generally my ms contains mostly “said” where necessary.  I know that in written banter, each sentence need not be attributed.  But when it is…what words do you use?

The thoughts behind my madness are that if you’ve written dialogue well, most of the time, you needn’t write more than said.  Even “asked” can be ambiguous — because questions end with question marks.  Right?

When my dear friend Debbie pointed out to me that in the first pages of Good in Bed, Jennifer Weiner used no less than eight different dialogue tags.

  • observed
  • asked
  • yelled
  • advised
  • whispered
  • blubbered
  • corrected
  • began

OK, I got the point.  I didn’t mean I NEVER write anything other than said.  Sometimes I do.  I just find it distracting, I suppose to read when the meaning is there anyway.  If someone is crying and you know that, must he sob his words?

It’s subjective – writers and readers like different things.  Agents and editors have their preferences as well.

What’s your dialogue tag of choice — and which one(s) do you leave out of your manuscript?

P.S.  According to every source I could find online at 6 a.m., dialogue can also be spelled dialog (before coffee it was a bit much to handle). Do you have a preference?

Jan 18 2009

Weaving time

Rewriting is harder than writing.

There, I said it. If you already know this, nod your head in agreement. Sing the Hallelujah chorus. If this is new to you, you might want to sit down.

I’m exhausted, but good exhausted, from the tapestry I’m weaving in this rewrite. A new character sprang out of nowhere. She knocked on my brain until I wrote her, and I know why. She picked up a thread that was missing. I have fleshed out secondary characters so that they don’t live and breathe by the MC. They are grateful to have their own lives. I have added subtle bits of foreshadowing, that no character sees, but I hope that will tickle a memory in each reader when she is farther along in the story.

Each word matters more than it did before. Amazing that is even possible.

The thing that is hardest of all is weaving time. When three months pass here, or the snow falls, or there is a birthday, where does that leave everyone? On the corner? On vacation? Is school over? Do they need coats or bathing suits? How much time has passed? How old is everyone? Did I miss something? It all has to mesh. I’m doing the best I can with that part, but think I’ll pick it apart and analyze in the next rewrite.

Yes, the next one. I know it’s coming. I’m already brewing the coffee.

How do you keep track of time or tiny details in your long manuscripts? Do I need another white board?