I have received answers back today from Renni Browne to the questions you all submitted. I am going to start posting those here tomorrow, when I catch my breath. (After yesterday’s e-zine, I’ve had a LOT of email today and have been answering it all till late, so tonight is going to be a light blog night, with just a few answers to your latest comments):
okay ~ the first question that popped in my mind is how do you know if an idea is publishable? Do you talk about it with someone in the industry or do you have a gut feeling?
Randy sez: You never KNOW if it’s publishable. You have to go on your BELIEFS. If you believe your idea is publishable, then work on it. If you ever stop believing in it, then quit and switch to something else. If you have doubts, get a second and third opinion from writers you respect. Don’t trust non-writing friends! What do they know about it?
Pam, that is my question too. With my current WIP I’ve had mixed comments about whether it is publishable/marketable. Those that have read portions say yes and those that just look at the query say no. I guess the query is the problem. Nonetheless I’m not so naive to think it is a best seller or that it meets the needs/wants of the general market, but my gut is that it is a story some will read. If I go by what my critique group says I would persevere – If I go by the word of on honorable literary agent I’d drop it like a hot potato and move on. Yet in my heart, I think it is worth the effort.
Randy sez: Then keep on keeping on! You can get all the advice you can stomach, but at the end of the day, it’s what your heart says that matters. If it’s just a bad query letter, then fix the query. How long could that take? A day?
Stein recommends avoiding going through from beginning to end much because the writer gets weary of it. Have you found that to be a problem? If I take a little break in between, I can come back fresh and get excited about my book again–no matter how many times I’ve read it so far. I know when my own writing engages me and evokes tears, etc., it has something because it can still offer that P.E.E. to someone who knows it well.
Randy sez: For all new-comers to this blog, “P.E.E.” is a Powerful Emotional Experience, which is what you should be striving to create in your reader. My own policy is to finish the first draft, then read the whole thing through as fast as possible and make notes on what works and what doesn’t (the Big Picture). Then I’ll work though it all slowly, fixing every little thing, and using my Big Picture notes to help fix the big problems. When I hate the book so much that I vomit on sight of it, then it’s perfect and should go to my editor.
I should note that even before I read the whole thing myself, I send it to my freelance editor to tell me what’s good and what ain’t. I’ve found that my writing either sings or stinks; unfortunately, I can’t tell the difference, so I need my freelancer to tell me which is which. And since she’s not a Manly Guy, I can count on her to tell me what parts will appeal (or not) to the Womanly Reader. I’m always surprised by what she tells me.
D.E. Hale wrote:
I mean, I’ve spent several years completing the stupid things, and now my husband is going to think I’ve gone nuts if I tell him that I need to rewrite them again.
Randy sez: I sympathize with you on that. I worked on my first book for two and a half years. Then I went to a writing conference, met a new writing buddy, and one of his comments really hit home for me. I realized that the book was unpublishable. So I quit. Right then, right there. I KNEW it could not be published. My wife was really mad and asked who this guy was, that he could derail years of my work. My answer was that I wasn’t derailing it on account of my friend’s opinion; I was derailing it because his words were true, and I knew they were true. It wasn’t his opinion, it was mine. But I took action as soon as I knew the problem was fatal. I don’t waste time when I make a decision. I just act.
I wasn’t happy with my project. After reading it with a more objective eye, I realize it just wasn’t very good or interesting. I think the story is a good one. I can write better from the first person perspective. I want to start over from the central character’s voice. However, I will lose two of the characters in the process.
My question is, should I scale back my storyline to make the writing more engaging or should I force myself to learn to write from the omniscient third person? This is a hard choice for me.
Randy sez: You definitely don’t want to use omniscient point of view. But I’m not sure what you mean by omniscient third person. Third person is perfectly fine, and it’s the most common viewpoint. We talked a lot about viewpoint here a few months ago. And of course my Fiction 101 and Fiction 201 courses go into point of view in a nicely organized way.
I’m not sure how to advise you here, not having seen the work. You might want to get the advice of a writer friend or show it to someone at a writing conference. Be aware that it’s common for a writer to not write very well on the first book. It often takes a few tries to find your voice and get your stride.
Daan Van der Merwe says
Wow! And I thought nothing could be more exiting than learning about topics such as “Dialogue must be War” and “Don’t Make a Fighting Desperado Fight Like a Sissy”.
Randy, Thanks again!
Aside from craft problems or being a deadly boor, what should one avoid if (s)he wants to be published?
Daan Van der Merwe says
Oi vey! How about some “exciting” spell check software when typing a comment?
Stephen King in his book ON WRITING says he puts his manuscript in a drawer and walks away from it for a month or so before he reads it again. I do the same thing and it helps sooo much. In doing that, I’m less emotionally tied to certain scenes that need to be cut and it’s easier to do the hard-core editing. Then I put it away again if I’m getting foggy about what to do next and I work on something else. I don’t read much Stephen King at all (I am not at all into horror stuff) but I did enjoy his book ON WRITING very much.
I also hope to use a freelance editor once I have a manuscript to that point. But the problem with that is that I’m not wealthy and those editors do cost $$. It would be a sacrifice for my family at this point to pay an editor to edit something that might not even be any good.
I am going to start praying for some writing friends to advise me as I don’t have a writing group or any friends that read the kind of Christian fiction I write. Thanks for the advice.
Karla, I also want to find someone with solid editorial experience when the time comes. And I already have a critique group AND friends who like to read a lot of similar fiction. Even with these people, whose intelligence I respect (and not just because they let me hang out) I know I need someone at a higher level to take a hard look with a big red pen before an agent or editor ever sees it.
I notice that crit groups and online writing groups vary widely in editorial experience, practice and rigor of scrutiny. And you can choose one depending on how severely you want to be sliced and diced. Oops… did I say you? I meant your work.
My crit buds are too nice to me. I need and want a hard reality check, and like you, budget is an issue and besides…I don’t know how much this work is worth investing in at this point. I don’t know how to judge this without bias. (My bias tends to run on the “it sucks, I just know it” end of the scale)
I am going to be attending Mt Hermon in March and my crit buds are encouraging me to polish hard now and pitch it there. Sorry guys. Not this Sophomore. (Yeah, I thought it was time to move up) Freshmen and Sophomores don’t dance at the prom. I think they’re supposed to stand behind the punch table to watch and learn. Right Randy?
Karla (and anyone else looking for a group) – I don’t know if you already belong, but American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) is well worth the $50 per year dues. Member benefits include crit groups, both online and local, online courses and tons of other resources.