C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

The publishing revolution already happened.

Short Story: The Sum of Me

I read this story at the open mic at the CanWrite conference in June. It was received very well though I was the only one who saw fit to drop the F-bomb (twice.) Please note this is a work of fiction. All through the rest of the conference people came up to me and looked concerned. “Uh, no, it’s okay. It’s fiction. I’m not that big a loser. Also, all those stories I wrote where somebody is tortured or killed? That’s uh…well, yeah, that research was just hell for the victims…” Wicked smile.

Next Post: Issues in Titling and Marketing Manuscripts will slide in a little after noon.

Filed under: My fiction, , , ,

Agents and (Non)Acquiring Editors: A Word on Gatekeeper’s Remorse (Some don’t have any!)

J. K. Rowling, after receiving an honorary deg...

Image via Wikipedia

 

When a book is a great success, the rumors eventually emerge. JK Rowling was rejected six times. Meyer of Twilight fame? Fifteen times. All authors have stories of deals that almost went through. Many tell stories of cruel writing groups, insensitive english professors or critics that were hypercritical. When one writer triumphs and rises above these obstacles, all us of share a little of that. In German, it’s called Schadenfreude. In English it’s called “Nyaa-nyaa, nya-nya-naaaaaah!”       

Editors who reject books that go on to great success interest me. First question: Do they still have their jobs? Answer: Yes, of course they do.       

In Hollywood, you fail up. (Getting any movie made is such an accomplishment, you can have a string of failures and be a working director like M. Night Shyamalan.) If the rumoured stats are trues (85%-95% of books not earning their advances) publishing surely has the  highest tolerance for failure of any industry. There is no product research. “Product research is the first print run,” as they say. (Due to technology and Seth Godin forces, that’s changing. That’s another post.)       

Agents who pass up gold and editors who turn their noses up at diamonds answer predictably: “It’s a subjective business.” Yes. It is.    

Second Question: “But if these people are the experts who are supposed to know better, why do so many of their books tank?” Should we put so much stock in the opinion of people who are so often wrong? Dick Cheney doesn’t get to make credible predictions on foreign policy anymore. Why are we held in such thrall by agents and editors who have similar track records?      

The other common reply is, “I can’t represent it if I don’t love it.”       

I call bullshit. I’ve slogged through the slush pile. I worked as a sales rep for several publishing companies. I represented, and sold,  many books I never even got to read. (There were too many–especially when I worked at Cannon Books which listed hundreds and hundreds of books each year.) I even sold some books I actively loathed.       

The key question is not, “Do I love it?”        

The key questions are, “Can I sell it? Will lots of other people love it?”       

The idea that you can’t represent something unless you “love” it can set a ridiculously high bar for manuscript acceptance. You’ve read lots of books you liked and were glad to have read. How many were so good you really “loved” them? No wonder it’s so hard to get an agent if love is the accepted standard. (Love is not a standard criterion in business practice. You may think art is exempt from standard business practice. That’s one of the reasons this industry is in so much trouble. Artists worry their art is compromised, but without the business side? No art.)      

CORE ISSUE:       

Writers, particularly those yet-to-be published, are expected to have a thick skin.      

That is useful, though any really successful author will tell you the harsh critics hurt just as much as ever. They feel the pain, but aren’t supposed to complain.     

Some editors and agents     

 (PLEASE NOTE: NOT ALL EDITORS AND AGENTS!)     

act as if their mistakes aren’t mistakes.      

Therefore, their mistakes will be repeated.     

When ego gets in a writer’s way, he or she can’t learn and improve. That same principle should apply to gatekeepers. However, when gatekeepers make mistakes, some seem to say, “Not my fault. That’s just the way it is. I didn’t love it enough.” I say, “The new economy is making million-dollar companies, often out of billion-dollar companies. The coffee’s brewing and it’s a quarter past Massive Industry Fail. Wake up! And open up!”      

When you see an agent blog wherein the agent rips new queries, keep in mind that of all the many queries they analyse, they may accept only a handful (some perhaps two a year…or less.) Also, don’t work with snarky people because mean people suck and eventually they’ll be mean to you.     

This post was critical, not snarky. If I were snarky, I would have named names.      

Filed under: agents, Editors, manuscript evaluation, publishing, Rant, Rejection, Writers, , , , , , , , , , ,

10 Questions & Missions for Writers

Short Story

Image via Wikipedia

What are you doing today that will advance your writing career? Not yesterday. Not tomorrow. Today.

Choose #1 plus one other:

1. Have you written today?

2. Have you read a writing blog (besides this one)?

3. Have you researched an agent’s blog?

4. Have you proofread your poetry or short story?

5. Have you sent out one of your stories to a contest, magazine or journal?

6. Have you come up with at least five queries today?

7. Have you checked where your queries or stories are and if it’s been more than three months, do you need to write a reminder?

8. Have you read at least some pages of a good book today?

9. Have you set a word count or page count for your writing or editing project so you know the end date of the current stage of your project? If so, have you worked out a ship date?

10. Have you taken a half hour for yourself where you go for a walk, get some exercise, meditate or otherwise flush out your head so you have a fresh and healthy perspective on your work?

Please tell me you at least completed #1. You know why? Because your writing is #1!

 

Filed under: getting it done, Writers, writing tips, , ,

What Makes a Good Editor? (via Sharron’s Blog)

I write a lot about writing and publishing. I thought I should say something about editors. Then I read this, so thanks to Sharron for picking up the torch on this subject.

When I teach my writing and publishing classes, I often get students who tell me they've always wanted to become a writer. I also get students who tell me they love finding errors in books and magazines when they read them. Then they tell me they think they want to become editors. What makes a good editor? A good editor is well read in many areas. To limit one's expertise to one or two topics is to limit one's ability to edit well to those few to … Read More

via Sharron's Blog

Filed under: Uncategorized

Television Writer Margaret Dunlap on the merit of Film School – How to write a screenplay, sell a screenplay – ScriptShark.com

Television Writer Margaret Dunlap on the merit of Film School – How to write a screenplay, sell a screenplay – ScriptShark.com.

It’s one of my life regrets that I went to journalism school. I should have been in film school! Margaret Dunlap has a great take on the surprising benefits of these programs.

Thank you, Margaret! Great post!

Filed under: Media, web reviews

Writing Excuses 4.33: Trunk Novels

Writing Excuses 4.33: Trunk Novels.

Here’s a writing podcast I love. It’s updated weekly and it’s useful.

Filed under: web reviews, Writers, writing tips

Random advice from the Napa Writers Conference (via Fog City Writer)

I can’t be in Napa so a little bit of Napa came to me. Thanks to Fog City Writer for this post from the writers’ conference!

This is just a fun list of some of the helpful tidbits I picked up while at the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference last week: – The train has to leave the station quickly at the beginning of a story. This is a clever way of saying that you need to get a plot/conflict going sooner rather than later and that your characters’ desires/goals/motivations need to be made known quickly to draw the reader into your story. If your reader gets to page 25 of yo … Read More

via Fog City Writer

Filed under: Uncategorized

Twitter Addresses of Literary Agents Who Twitter (via Ramblings of a Raconteur)

This is useful. When you’re on the hunt for an agent, here’s a place to look first.

Twitter Addresses of Literary Agents Who Twitter Below is a listing of  Literary Agents with Twitter accounts. @4writers / Jennifer DeChiara @AffinityArtists / Ross Grossman @AgentPete / Peter Cox, Redhammer @agentrobert / Robert Brown, Wylie-Merrick Literary Agency @allanguthrie / Allan Guthrie @amblit / Amy Moore-Benson @AndyBarzvi / Andrea Barzvi @BeMissH / Holly Bemiss, The Susan Rabiner Literary Agency @BookEndsJessica / Jessica Faust @Bookfan / Kae Tienstra @BookJacquie / Jacquie Flynn, J … Read More

via Ramblings of a Raconteur

Filed under: Uncategorized

What got done this week

Hey folks! For a change, a little about me, me, me.

In addition to editing my novel (Romeo, Juliet & Jerome) I completed an editing/ghostwriting job for a client. The fellow wanted his content punched up for a magazine article which will publicize his business and connect him to new customers. His allotted word count limit was 3,000 words. He submitted 1,000 words to me. This could have been a problem, but I came up with another 500 words after the edit/ghost job. We solved the rest of the shortfall with photos so everybody’s happy.

I also finished a preliminary edit on a memoir this week. Great life stories are so humbling.

I joined Goodlife Fitness and now I’m exercising every day. If you’re a writer, please do the same. Nobody talks about this much, but as a writer, you’re sedentary. You spend hours sitting still. This wasn’t healthy when it was TV and it’s not any more healthy now. Writers need to get out the door, hit a gym, go for a run or at least a brisk walk. Counteract the damage to your body that writing demands. We are human. We aren’t supposed to stay still as long as we do. In the near future, I expect to be in great shape. (Okay, really good shape.)

Happy Friday! More links are coming later today as I scan the publishing blogs for you, you , you.

Filed under: Editors, getting it done, This Week's Missions, What about Chazz?, , , ,

Bad Writing, Jim Belushi and Charlie’s Angels

Last night I watched TV as I puffed along on a treadmill at the gym. Jim Belushi’s sitcom was on. I was listening to a podcast on my headphones but the

Big Bang Theory writing is flashy, fast and funny. Good writing there.

 onscreen captions caught my eye. It was an According to Jim episode with all the predictable elements: a hot wife, Jim, a wacky neighbor who is fatter than Jim so the “star” looks smaller. There were a couple of cute kids running around.

David Cross tells a story about Jim Belushi (in Cross’s excellent book I Drink for a Reason) that is pretty awful. I won’t repeat it here. Go get Mr. Cross’s book for the full chewy goodness. Anyway, Jim is no John. But that wasn’t why I disliked the show. Yes, there was a tone of he-man homophobia which was distasteful and seemed dated to me, but it was the writing that was most egregious.

Perhaps it was the captions that alerted me to what was going on in the episode. I don’t mean the story per se. I mean the subtext of bad writing. Jim was there to crank out the stale and predictable jokes. The neighbor was there to make Jim seem more normal. The part of the wife could have been played by a whiteboard. She may, in fact, be a terrific actress. We’ll never know. No one on the staff was writing for her.

As I ran on the treadmill I wished I’d seen it from the beginning so I could keep a tally of how many times the wife’s lines were:

“What?”

“Yeah?”

“Okay. Okay? Okay.”

And then back to “What?!”

Wouldn’t it be great if everybody in the show got great lines? It’s either a power/insecurity thing* or the actress really couldn’t remember words longer than a few at a time. Maybe some day she’ll get to be a mindless exposition device. On this show, she may as well have been a cue card.

Watch The Big Bang Theory. Everybody gets great lines, not just Sheldon. Watch King of Queens reruns. Kevin James was consistently funny and you never once thought, “I bet that guy’s a real prick.” King of Queens was an underrated show, but it’s exactly what According to Jim would have been if it were any good.

Good luck to Mr. Belushi in his new fall show, The Defenders. I sure hope he got a whole new bunch of writers. I don’t want to see Jerry O’Connell going through entire shows saying “What? What? What?” so Jim can throw out another pithy line. It won’t matter too much. From now on, at the gym I’m sticking to Writing Excuses podcasts on my iPod.

BONUS:

*William Goldman relates a great story about the tense set of Charlie’s Angels. The actresses grew to hate each other and counted all the lines and words to make sure no one was getting more lines than they were. The writers ended up calling it Huey, Dooey and Louie dialogue because the angels would each have a line of equal length at all times.

Cheryl-LaddAngel 1: “I think we should…”

Angel 2: “Get to the beach!”

Angel 3: “…and find our Charlie!”

Quack!

Quack!

Quack!

A producer was asked the secret to Charlie’s Angels success. He didn’t laud his writing staff or the acting. He said one word: “Nipples.”

Filed under: Media, Rant, writing tips, , , , ,

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Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

Action like a Guy Ritchie film. Funny like Woody Allen when he was funny.

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"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

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