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Writers: Your mistakes taunt you

The original Ruby slippers used in The Wizard ...

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I saw the movie Limitless over the weekend. I loved it (and it helped the loser/hero starts out as a scrambled slacker writer who is hopelessly blocked . It’s a great time, but as I hit the parking lot I thought, (MINI-SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER!) how come they left the dangling thread of the unsolved murder? Was it lost on the editing room floor?

There are plenty of precedents for such mistakes. For instance, a truly great classic, Casablanca is brutally flawed if you think about the ending for a moment. The engine of the plot turns on there being only two travel passes so only two people can leave. Will Ilsa go with Rick or Victor? The resistance needs Victor so Rick must sacrifice his desires for Ilsa for the greater good. But there are no Nazis checking passports at the airport!

In fact, in the background at the end of Casablanca just a few little people (they were “dwarves” when the same extras were in The Wizard of Oz) pretend to fuel a cardboard cut-out plane. Rick could have escaped, as well. Instead he stays with Louie and they begin a beautiful friendship that, years later, would inspire the raw, hot homo-eroticism of Bert and Ernie of Sesame Street fame. (Okay, I made up that last bit.)

Sometimes people underestimate the importance of editing. When stuff is left out, it sticks out. Even if you enjoy a story, as you put it down, you think about that niggling deficit. I guess it’s just the way our brains are wired. You forget praise, but point out a screw up, that you remember forever.

I recently went through a writing sample for an author. I might have seemed harsh though I took great pains to be kind. The truth is, I found a lot to fix. The author wanted to send it off for traditional publication. Without those fixes, there was no way it was going to get past the first gatekeeper.

Publishing has changed. There are fewer editors doing more work and if they accept a new author at all, they do not want to have to do much editing at all.
With To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee‘s acquisition editor took a year off to perfect the book. There is no way in hell that would happen today.

You want your text to be excellent. If you publish it yourself, good might do. Even “good enough” might pass. But is that really what you want? Mistakes in books stand out and stick, burning you at the thought of readers stumbling over a glaring error and questioning your ability, craft or intelligence.

Errata are in all books. They shouldn’t be dancing around in neon taunting you.





Filed under: authors, Books, Editing, Editors, movies, publishing, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , ,

Writers: Why your worst ideas ever might be your best

Andy Warhol: Campbell's Soup Cans (MoMA - New ...

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Three words: Andy Warhol. Soup.

Warhol made his name by making art out of the everyday. Campbell’s soup cans became transcendent when we saw them again through Warhol’s eyes. But don’t you think he encountered a lot of resistance along the way? Lots of people have.

When you look at creative endeavours, it can be very difficult to tell a good idea from a terrible one. In fact, some of the best ideas, appear to be the worst ideas ever at first glance. 

Ghandi said, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

Publishing. Film. Art. It can all be like that.

Books have been written about rejection (and a lot of them were probably rejected quite a bit before finally getting published.) They are pretty funny when you look back on them now. Keats was told he couldn’t use language. The first guy who looked at Everybody Comes to Rick’s wrote that he gave the writer ten pages to grab him and he didn’t. Everybody Comes to Rick’s became Casablanca. Neil Gaiman‘s The Graveyard Book is a more recent example. It’s a great book about a baby whose family is murdered. The baby wanders down to the local boneyard to be raised by the ghosties there.

Yeah, I know! And yet. And yet.

Feel bad about getting rejected? Remember this: “Norton, this idea of yours is so crazy, it might just work!”

Great ideas often come in disguise. From the outside, they look just terrible. when you finally succeed (or go indie and make it happen on your own sans gatekeepers) you can wipe your tears away with a fifty.  (Okay, a five-spot. You’re a writer, after all.)

Filed under: publishing, Rant, Rejection, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , ,

Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

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

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Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

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