1. wonderland
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    wonderland Member

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    Advice from any editors?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by wonderland, Jul 10, 2013.

    I've been studying a writing podcast called Writing Excuses of late which goes into many of the finer points of writing and getting published.

    As I've never been published, I pay attention to podcasts which allude to all the ways in which an editor will be able to tell (from as early as page one, even paragraphy one) whether they want to keep on reading.

    Because of this I'm having some degree of pacing paranoia - I don't want to get right into certain things on page one or two but I then worry that when handing over a story to an editor, having had nothing published, they're going to want to see plot, character and setting right off the bat. I realise that when you submit to an editor, you submit page one only. Then, based on that, they might ask for chapter one.

    So, that in mind, should a first novel be a little more straight-to-the-point than subsequent novels (where we assume, for arguments sake, that the first gets published).
     
  2. Kita
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    Kita Senior Member

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    This is something I am unsure of myself. From a storytelling point of view I would say if necessary then should be done conservatively. Maybe by hinting at the characters intentions but not revealing everything outright. Maybe a character seeking world domination but only revealing that he is attempting to take control of a certain country before the extent of his ambitions is revealed.
     
  3. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Any reader, not just an editor or an agent, will have a sense of whether they want to keep reading when they read the first chapter, page, scene, -- whatever. You yourself have some sense of whether you want to continue reading. That's why amazon allows you to look at sample pages. It's what you probably do when you're in a bookstore and browse through a few pages of a book.

    It's not so much about "Do I know everything about what happens in this book?" It's about whether the writing has a sense of suspense or intrigue. About whether the writer's writing flows smoothly. Whether you can connect with what the writer is saying. Whether there are grammatical errors or choppy sentences (not so much in a published book, but when an agent looks at a book or whether you download something self-pubbed). It has to do with determining whether the author is a good writer and what sort of tone and voice the story contains.
     
  4. wonderland
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    wonderland Member

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    That's a fair point. So it's not about showing that you can fit plot, character and setting up in the first page as much as just showing some writing skill.
     
  5. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    You got it!
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yes, liz has said what i would...

    and as an editor who's looked at the first page of countless stories and books over many decades, i can testify from personal experience that if the writing isn't publishing quality on the first page, it won't matter if it improves later on... because that's as far as agents and publishers will usually go...

    i don't know where you got this idea... or what kind of editor you're referring to... why would you be submitting your work directly to an editor?... are you referring to wanting to hire an editor to work on your ms?...
     
  7. wonderland
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    wonderland Member

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    Thanks for the feedback.

    So you're saying that first time writers don't pitch to editors who work in publishing companies? I thought that's what they did :/
     
  8. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Depends on the publishing company. Some of them, including some that are well known, you can pitch directly to the publisher. Most of the major ones want agents. Maybe that will change in coming years.
     
  9. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Wonderland,

    Whether submitting to agents or editors of publishers that accept unsolicited manuscripts, it's best to put your best foot forward.

    They get far more submissions than they could ever publish, let alone fully consider for potential publication, and reading slush isn't a high priority. Whatever time is spent in that task takes away from everything else they must do (both agents and editors).

    So, you want to format the first page (the entire mansucript or whatever is requested in the submission package, such as first three chapters) exactly as requested, including font size and type, margins, double space, headers, etc.

    The first page (since that's what you're concerned about) should be free of typos, grammar gaffs, punctuation errors, etc.

    I would recommend that your novel not start with an info dump, excessive passive voice, discussion of the weather or 'a day in the life', etc.

    From there, tell the best story you can, from page one. ("Well, duh!" you say), but they read past the first page, you have the second page and the first chapter. Also, many request a brief synopsis. Those are a challenge to write too.

    One of the most difficult things is to start the story in the right place. Write you novel--get that first draft finished. In revision, you'll figure out if you started too early in the story or too late, or in the right place.

    If you're still concerned about being an unpublished author, sending out your work, maybe take a look at the first few pages of first time published authors that have recently been released. While it's possible there was extensive editing, maybe not. Nevertheless, it'll give you an idea what has worked.

    For about four years I worked as an editor for a magazine/ezine, mainly reading slush. And what I said about the novel above pretty much applies to short stories. One additional thing that will save you time and some grief is to carefully choose the agent/editor/publisher you subit your work to. Be sure it's something they publish. Amazing as it may seem, some authors just shotgun their works out to any and everyone. Not a good idea.

    Good luck moving forward.
     
  10. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Keep in mind that while the beginning should be more exciting than the character putting on his socks while he ruminates on his past life, it doesn't have to start wtih _the_ main conflict, just _some_ conflict or interesting event. You don't want it to communicate "backstory" or inspire the response, "Yes, yes, we understand, can we have something happen now?"

    For example, I'm reading Dana Stabenow's _A Deeper Sleep_ (yes, yes, genre fiction) right now, and while I think that the main conflict is going to be about Criminal A, the conflict in the initial scene was a stakeout and the arrest of a completely different petty criminal, and the conflict introducing that was about the main male character trying to resist his feelings for the main female character who was his companion in the stakeout.

    Those weren't throwaway scenes - those feelings are presumably going to continue through the story, and the petty criminal might well be relevant to the main criminal case. But all the same, we started with a small conflict, not the main one and not a bunch of background narrative for the main one. That background did get tucked in there, dropped into conversations and memories and characters' mental comparisons, subtly enough that I don't clearly remember how I learned it.

    So you don't need to jump right into your main plot, but you should probably jump into something.

    (Edited to add: Also keep in mind that I haven't been published, and therefore this is a reader's opinion, not a writing professional's.)
     
  11. Kita
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    Kita Senior Member

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    I have a related question. Would it be appropriate to send a synopsis with the first page or should that be withheld until it is requested?
     
  12. Steve Day
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    Steve Day Senior Member

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    What are you sending, and who are you sending it to?
    A novel? An agent? A short story to a fanzine?
    There are certain "rules" -Times New Roman, double space, 12pt- but all agents have their own specifics of what genre(s) they handle, and what they want. One page, one chapter with synopsis, accepts email queries, yada yada.
     
  13. Kita
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    Kita Senior Member

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    A novel to an agent. It is far from done so this is really more for future reference.
     
  14. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    [MENTION=46004]Kita[/MENTION] - Read the agent's submission guidelines on their website, and if they don't have one, it might be wise to email and ask them directly. Every agent will want something different - usually it's either first three chapters plus query letter, or first 50 pages plus query. Some others ask for a synopsis on top of this, some don't. Some don't even ask for any samples and they only want that 1-page query. It all depends on the agent.

    [MENTION=31407]wonderland[/MENTION] - as I said above, you need an agent, who will sell you to a publisher, who will then assign you to an editor. The first person you must win over is the agent, who will help you get your book up to publishable standards if she chooses to take you as her client. (your book will need to be very very close to being publishable already but the agent will help you fine-tune it - or that's my impression anyway)
     
  15. Kita
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    Kita Senior Member

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    Thank you. The advice is appreciated.
     
  16. wonderland
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    Thanks folks.

    That is a good point about getting an agent. To that end, getting some short stories published? I hear that's how it's sometimes/often done?
     
  17. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, it can be. Agents care about what they can sell. And what they want to spend their time trying to sell. To that end, they want something interesting and well-written. Being able to say that you have some short stories published is a nice little credential you can put in a cover letter, but in and of itself isn't going to get you an agent. What is helpful in writing and getting some short stories published is the experience that you get from the endeavor.
     
  18. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Not Times New Roman, which is a sans serif font. Most guidelines of which I am aware are for serif fonts like Courier.
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    tnr is certainly serifed, ed... but it's so tiny and cramped that it's hard on the eyes of those who have to read mss all day, every day, which is why courier is the most universally acceptable font...
     

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