Posts Tagged ‘WritingTip’

How to Deal With Rejection

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

As a senior editor for a romance e-publisher, oftentimes, my job is to disappoint hopeful authors, to tell them that their work is not up to par.

I often joke that my job is to tell people their book baby is ugly.

As an author, I know how criticism and rejection can sting. I know the knee-jerk reaction to call that agent, that editor, that publisher a stupid stupidface who doesn’t understand you, your work, the genre, anything.

I get it. I really do.

As writers, we’re passionate about our work! And I think it’s okay to experience that knee-jerk reaction.

With a few caveats.

1. Never, never, never vent in public. ESPECIALLY not on social media. Not even for a second. Not even if you take it down in the next five minutes.

I can guarantee you someone somewhere has a screenshot, and that outburst will come back to haunt you forever.

Why? Because it makes you look like an unprofessional jerk. Rejection and criticism are part and parcel of writing. If you can’t stand the heat, don’t expect your writing to be well-forged.

So vent in private–in private emails, messages, and groups–and only to your Circle of Trust.

2. After you’re done venting in private, go back to the rejection letter and really read it. Look at what it says and what it doesn’t say.

These people are professionals in their field. They’ve read extensively in your genre. They’re also overworked as hell. If they are taking their time to offer you good, solid critique, seriously consider taking it.

Make something out of it.

3. If you find you’re getting rejected a lot, I highly recommend a critique group or beta readers who: a) know your genre and b) will give you honest feedback.

As tempting as it may be to ask your best friend or your mom or your SO to read your work, they may not be the best person. A good crit partner or beta reader is someone who doesn’t have a vested interest in making you happy, but will give you the good with the bad in a detailed and constructive way.

Why do I recommend this? Oftentimes, we can’t see the flaws because we’re so close to the work. Oftentimes, it will take the author 3-4 drafts to figure out a problem when simply talking it out with a crit partner can provide far quicker results.

Not to mention: many of the stories I’ve rejected were ones where the author clearly, clearly, clearly did not have even one person read the work before sending it off to me.

Do you really want that acquisitions editor to be the first one to read your book?

Spoiler alert: No. No you don’t.

As with any advice, your mileage may vary here. Becoming a successful writer is a different path for everyone. I hope my advice helps you on your way!

Slán go fóill!

~GIE

 

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What Makes a Pro?

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

In my role as an author and editor, I am often asked, what do I consider to be the hallmarks of a professional writer? How do you tell the pros from the amateurs? And most importantly, how do you become a pro?

So, I’ve compiled this non-exhaustive-but-pretty-darn-close list based on my personal experiences and interactions on both sides of the publishing industry—author side and editor side.

Being a professional writer means:

  • Being creative when you’re down or sick or hungover or having a bad day.
  • Pushing words onto the page even when they suck. A pro writer knows you can’t edit a blank page.
  • Setting daily goals. Butt + chair = productivity
  • Meeting daily goals. Pros create a habit of writing, and the notion that pro writers spend all their time surfing the internet is largely inaccurate.
  • Writing in the small spaces– in the checkout line, in the bathroom, at an Idina Menzel concert, any time an idea strikes you.
  • Not really understanding those memes like “If you make me mad I’ll put you in a book and kill you.” Good writing is not about petty grudges.
  • Working a job to support your writing career. If you’re writing to “make money,” you’re going about it all wrong.
  • Getting up early and staying up late to make your daily word count.
  • Never getting to level 80 in World of Warcraft.
  • Realizing that “perfect” is the enemy of “good.” You can only obsess over a single word or phrase for so long before the ratio of impact vs. decline in productivity shifts out of your favor.
  • Reading, reading, reading. How can you write in your genre when you don’t read in your genre?
  • Accepting that you’ll be months, if not years, behind in watching the latest TV shows.
  • Being able to take and implement criticism. Treat your book like your baby, but let it get skinned knees, let it play in the dirt. It’ll be stronger for it.
  • Always seeking to hone your craft.
  • Being respectful of other writers and celebrating their successes. One writer’s success does not take away from yours. Leave your jealousy at the door.
  • Accepting that you can’t predict the market. Boy wizard? Sparkly vampires? Who knew? Answer: no one. So write what you’re passionate about.
  • Accepting that house-cleaning will probably have to wait.
  • Plotting, plotting, plotting. Plotting some more.
  • Pantsing at least a little. Even the most strict plotline needs wiggle room for magic to happen.
  • Revision, revision, revision.
  • Being humble and gracious. Without the agents, editors, readers, crit partners, bloggers, reviewers, etc, you wouldn’t be where you are.
  • Realizing there’s no one path to success. You can take every single step JK Rowling did and still not end up at Hogwarts. Own your path. Take whatever it brings and make the most of it.
  • Knowing when to take a break and step back. Writing at the cost of friendships or family isn’t healthy. Know when to unplug.
  • Giving back to the writing community. At some point, someone probably gave you a chance, an opportunity, a critique, a kind word, a good review, an “in.” When it’s your turn, give one back.
  • Making informed choices about your writing. Pro writers know when they’re breaking the rules and why.
  • Realizing you are your reputation and much of that comes from how you portray yourself on the internet. Maintain your integrity in your dealings with everyone.
  • Putting your writing over your hobbies. Do you write once/week but spend 40 hours playing video games or binge-watching Netflix? Maybe it’s time for a change.
  • Not needing a member of the Avengers or Neil Gaiman or anyone to tell you “You should be writing.” Memes are cute, but discipline is key.
  • Hustling and making your own opportunities. (see: there’s no one path to success).
  • Understanding it’s a marathon not a sprint. NaNoWriMo is EvRyDayO.
  • Practicing to condense your book’s plot into 1-2 sentences so you can intelligently answer the dreaded question, “What do you write?”
  • Getting used to disappointment. No matter how good, how thoughtful or engaging your writing is, some people will simply not like it. It’s okay. Let it go.
  • Forging on despite a bad review, a bad cover, or a missed opportunity.
  • Believing in yourself and the worth of your writing. If you don’t, no one else will.
  • Not waiting around for the muse to strike. Want inspiration? Go find it. Hunt the muse down and tie it to the desk.
  • De-ritualizing the act of writing. You don’t need special pens or a special notebook. The magic is inside you.
  • Not waiting for a special place or a special time. The place is wherever you are. The time is now.

 

As always, with any writing advice, opinions differ and mileage varies. Writing is one of those odd careers where there is no one decisive path to success. I hope some of this advice helps you find your path!

Until next time, slán go fóill!

~GIE

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Writing Right: Fight Scene Do’s & Don’t’s

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

Fight scenes! Many writers dread writing them, and who can blame them? Writing a good fight scene is an art in itself.

Here are some of my best pieces of advice. Caveat: this is not meant to be an exhaustive list. Also, for every single thing I’ve said here, I will bet you, dollars to donuts, there is a best-selling author who does exactly the opposite. The key is: use and adapt what works for you, your style, and your book. Writing is about constantly, constantly making smart decisions and breaking rules in purpose.

And now, without further ado, my Top 10 List of Do’s & Don’t’s

10. Don’t: Use an Ace When a 2 Will Do

Blasting the bad guy with a Howitzer when he doesn’t need to be blasted with a Howitzer is overkill. Overkill is risky because it can make your hero look like a bully. Instead, make the punishment fit the crime, and you’ll fulfill the reader’s sense of “rightness.”

 

9. Don’t: Be Afraid to Hurt Your Characters! No One Likes Captain Awesome

Aragorn’s ceremonial scratch on the cheek is bogus. No one fights off 1,000 Uruk-hai and gets a single scratch. No one. Make your heroes earn their victories. Ask yourself: how heroic is it if it’s easy?

 

8. Don’t: Restrict Your Chara’s Powers

Don’t give your hero time travel only to take it away every time it might become useful.  Instead, let him use the power successfully at least once to show he’s heroic.  Later, instead of restricting the power, you can make it have dire consequences.

 

7. Do: Be Careful in Making Your Chara an Expert 

Make sure she can pass as an expert. If your hero is a martial artist, make sure you know about the martial arts. Interview an expert if you must, but don’t ever fake it.  Readers are smart and savvy. The second your expert does something novice, it will destroy the credibility of your fight scene, your hero, your book, and all your hard work.

 

6. Do: Balance Your Forces

And not just because I suggest it, but because Dwight Swain, author of Techniques of the Selling Writer, suggests it. Your hero is only as good as your villain. If your villain is weak, then having your hero defeat her isn’t very heroic.

 

5. Do: Keep Your Level of Reality Consistent

If your fight scene is hyper-realistic, then keep in mind that people can take a whole lot less punishment than Hollywood would have us believe. Any fight with a weapon will be over quickly. Any blow to the head can result in a concussion that can take weeks or even months to recover from. Likewise, if your fight scene is stylistic, keep it stylistic.  All that flying is great in Crouching Tiger because it’s part of the style. Consistency is key.

 

4. Do: Keep Your Magic Consistent

Readers will believe in magic–as long as you keep the rules that govern it consistent. Gandalf shouts, “You shall not pass!” the bridge crumbles, and the Balrog falls into the center of Middle Earth. The next time Gandalf shouts, “You shall not pass!” your villain should check to make sure he’s not standing on a bridge.

 

3. Don’t: Fake the Facts

Do your research.  Know how a katana cuts, how many times you can fire that SIG Sauer, etc. Know the training involved in handling each weapon, the types of wounds it causes, and the mindset of the culture it comes from. A samurai of feudal Japan is going to think and act much differently than Vin Diesel in a Fast & Furious movie, and a knife fight is going to be more brutal and deadly than a fistfight.

 

2. Don’t: Be Afraid to Act it Out

When in DOUBT, Act it OUT.  If your hero’s opponent is taller, get someone who is taller to act out your scene with you–safely. Go to museums, Ren Faires, and dueling Meet-Ups, pick up swords and try on armor. Get a feel for what it’s like to swing a katana, a claymore, a polearm. There’s a big difference. How many times can you swing those suckers without getting tired?

 

1. Do: Use Short Sentences and Short Paragraphs

Describe only what is essential.  I can tell you from experience that in the thick of a fight, you don’t have time to notice that “his eyes were blue, the color of woodsmoke, and he had a salt-and-pepper beard lightly dusted with–” Really? All that in half-second before the guy punches you in the face? No. Long paragraphs signify to the reader that more time is taking place, slowing your fight scene down to a crawl.  They take longer to read and thus, they tend to leech tension.  Short sentences increase tension.

 

And that’s it for now. My Top Ten Do’s & Don’t’s to writing a great fight scene!

Until next time… slán go fóill!

~GIE

 

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See some of my fight scene advice in action in Circuit Fae: Moribund, in September 2017

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Write Right: Dialogue Tags

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

I’ve been an editor for eight years now, and I’ve noticed that one of the hallmarks of a newer, inexperienced writer is “fancy” dialogue tags.

For some reason, many newer writers feel the need to spice up their tags. Maybe it’s that their creative writing instructors told them that said is too boring or that they should try to be original or shouldn’t repeat themselves.

Whatever the reason, I often feel like these authors go to the thesaurus, look up said, and then pepper their writing with all kinds of fancy tags like postulated, posed, discussed, shared, announced, declared, avouched, promulgated, and other ten-cent words.

Nothing makes an editor or a reader cringe more than this. Why? Because fancy tags are just that—fancy. They call attention to themselves. And thus, they detract from your dialogue.

 

For example:

“That’s Matt over there,” Joe announced.

“Oh, I know Matt,” Sally shared.

“Let’s go say hi,” Joe stated.

“No!” Sally admonished.

 

It’s awkward in the extreme, overwrought, and it shows a lack of sophistication in your writing. In short, it screams to your reader that you are an amateur.

The fact of the matter is that said is really the best bet. Said melts into the background and isn’t obtrusive. It doesn’t call attention to itself. It lets your dialogue have the spotlight.

But because writing is a complex art, using said exclusively isn’t the answer either. In fact, you can see that repeating said here would also be awkward.

 

“That’s Matt over there,” Joe said.

“Oh, I know Matt,” Sally said.

“Let’s go say hi,” Joe said.

“No!” Sally said.

 

So now what?

Now we use said in combination with what is called a dialogue beat—an action attributed to a specific character.

 

“That’s Matt over there,” Joe said.

“Oh, I know Matt,” Sally said.

“Let’s go say hi.” Joe took her arm and steered her toward Matt.

Sally jerked away. “No!”

 

See how the beats actually illuminate the character and the story? Here, we can tell that Sally is upset by what’s happening. Also, the saids here melt into the background. They leave the reader’s focus on the dialogue and action, not on a fancy tag.

As with any technique, using dialogue beats vs. tags is more art than science. A good trick is to read your work aloud to see if it flows well and sounds natural.

As always, thank you for reading!

~GIE

 

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