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Editor Advice

Music is Writing

I know not everyone who reads this blog is into music, but I love the stuff. The creation of a song is similar to writing a book in many ways. There’s layers, nuances, varying skills, lots of editing and lots of hard work. Husband sent me this article written by musician John Bohlinger. He was trying to learn an important song for the Country Music Television Awards. What struck me most is how he wasn’t really able to learn the part as perfectly as he wanted. He had to fall back to “Do what you know.” The arts involve a LOT of this type of “failure.” Sometimes we aren’t skilled enough to pull off a certain type of story. Maybe we fail a secondary character because we don’t develop the character enough. Maybe we fail the reader because we aren’t quite funny enough or don’t take the plot line where the readers want to go. We writers are always learning. We go back to the basics, we study technique, we try again.

The thing is, we have to write what we CAN. We can’t always find the perfect nuance. We have a performance to pull off. Most of us have deadlines, whether they are self imposed for financial reasons or just to keep our sanity. You can only work on a book, a song or a piece of artwork for so long. At some point, you have exhausted your skill level, your patience and your ideas. That is not the same thing as lazy writing, which is a whole different topic. As an editor, I know what lazy writing is. It’s when the author whines and says, “I could add that, but isn’t it really okay the way it is?” Not usually, no. Or worse, the writer says, “Just change it. I don’t care how you fix it.” Uh, no. YOU are the writer in this case. I am the editor. I don’t write FOR you. Yes, I’ve had clients actually ask me for a price quote to “finish the story. It’s all there except the ending, but if you finish it and edit it, we can put your name on it too.” Doesn’t work that way. I have my own projects. I don’t want to write your story. (After that kind of offer, I don’t even want to edit for that writer and will not edit for that writer.)

When people ask me how I turn my ideas into a book, I don’t have a good answer because it isn’t a pretty answer. Writing a book involves an enormous amount of failure. There are so many imperfections–some that I see, but choose to live with and many that I don’t. You put the book out there hoping the reader is satisfied and doesn’t see that extra word that isn’t really necessary. You hope they like the cover enough to buy the book and give it a chance. Maybe they decide against the book because the font is too curly or not curly enough. You hope that little writing trick you used flows, but it might be more like sunlight bouncing off a mirror. There’s no other band members to help carry you or cover up your flubs. It’s just you, Miss Grammar and the reader. In music, you hope the listener doesn’t have big ears. In writing, you hope the reader falls into the story and forgets to look for stains, scratches and imperfections. Music isn’t as easy as it sounds. Neither is writing a novel.

Posted: December 3, 2016
Filed in Editor Advice, On Writing, Writing Links

Secret Lives of Editors


This appears to be the week where all the publishing tips come in at once! I have found a plethora of gems from the editor(s) over at Mundania Press.

In my posts on publicity, it was probably pretty obvious that going with a smaller press (i.e. not one of the huge houses) may mean the author has to work harder at publicity or in getting books in bookstores. Turns out, there are a few advantages:

First, when working with a big house, an author usually has NO say in the cover. If you have a good editor and a good agent, you might be able to wheedle a few changes to the cover art. When working with a smaller press, Niki Browning (aka Skye), the Art Director for Mundania Press, wrote a great blog post for authors on the subject of cover art. Here’s a couple of samples:

Let’s face it; unless you are Stephen King or Mary Higgins Clark, your cover is what will sell your book so it better be a good one.

So how do you, the author, help to make sure your cover is the best it could possibly be? Well let’s go over some basics.

Wiggle room
Give the artist breathing room; don’t be too set on your vision…

Lack of focus
It’s ok to be vague. Give your artist several pieces of imagery you’d like to see on the cover and we can work with that.

Remember, we want the books with our covers to sell just as much as you do.

Go read the whole thing. It’s a very informative post. No matter who you are working with, Skye has some great tips.

Skyla Dawn (acquisitions editor for Mundania Press) also did a fabulous blog post–giving up the keys to the Kingdom, she talks about the submission process at Mundania. She includes all the important details and links to other posts that are related:

Stats from the Slush Pile
Why they can’t publish previously published (re: self-published) work.
Acquisition Tips
How to Inquire About a Submission
Why Rejections Don’t Include Feedback
What Made a Book a “yes!”
Perspective on Rejections
Publishing is like Dating
Don’t Burn that Bridge!

It may seem like an exhausting list, but trust me–those tips are GOLD. Sure, some of them seem obvious (and just what kind of dating life did the editor have anyway???) but every single one is worth reading. Mundania Press also has a nice little submission stats update on the right sidebar–telling authors that check in, just how far along the editors have read. I’d have to say it’s one of the more friendly sites I’ve visited.

Posted: June 19, 2009
Filed in Editor Advice

When the Editor Talks

clarkeNormally, I’d save this for my monthly column over at BSCreview, but I’ve got something else planned for that column (which if it works out will be super cool.  Hint:  It might be some artwork from a guy that does cozy artwork and children’s artwork!)

There’s a really great interview conducted by Jeremy L. C. Jones in the latest Clarkesworld magazine. Jeremy interviewed the editors of probably the top ten fiction magazines (spec fic) out there.   While a lot of the ground covered shouldn’t be new to anyone who has been submitting for a while–there are some gems to be had.

This line by Nielsen Hayden (Tor) was great:

Read something other than SF. Do something with your life other than struggling to sell SF stories.

black-gateissue-13So true. When you consider how little writing pays and the competition? If you put all your eggs in that basket, all you’re going to end up with is smelly eggs! To point: On the BlackGate Forum a couple of weeks ago, John O’Neill (editor of BlackGate) mentioned that BlackGate had been open for submissions for about three weeks. They had over 300 subs come in…so far…and counting.

BlackGate publishes probably 12 to maybe 15 stories per issue. They do about 3 issues a year. You do the math on the chances of having a story accepted.

O’Neill had this very interesting tidbit:

I once got an angry letter from a reader asking why I didn’t publish more medieval fantasy, with castles, princesses and dragons and the like. I thought it was a bit ridiculous at first. Isn’t everyone as tired of that as I am? How many dragon—slaying stories do we need? But now I think I understand what she meant. Like most editors I respond best to genuine innovation in fiction — the original, truly well-crafted setting, the character with a fresh voice — but there’s a very real hunger for the familiar among readers, especially the trappings of the fantasy of our youth. I think we ignore that at our peril.

I am that reader. I’m not tired of medieval fantasy with castles and dragons. Some of the “innovative” stuff just…isn’t my cup of tea. I’m often looking for comfort food when I read, not the newest, exotic snail sauce.

There’s some really great stuff out there in the interview–every single editor has something interesting to say. Check it out.

Posted: June 8, 2009
Filed in Editor Advice

Writer Advice – Slush Pile

In my trolling, I came across this valuable advice from a slush reader (otherwise and often known as editors.)

Clarkesworld Editor

Most of it is pretty obvious. I laughed at the one about changing the file name because I am always careful to make sure and not send my file names with version numbers. In my case, it is because I don’t want the editor to know that, yes, I really have made 26 major changes to versions of this story…and you should see how high the version number gets for a novel! Yikes!

One of the things that makes it difficult to follow guidelines to the last nitty-gritty detail is that every single e-zine and print magazine has different guidelines. Yes, there is a “standard manuscript format” but that usually only includes one inch margins and double spacing. After that, it gets a little hairy–some want no author name on the manuscript. Some want author name, title of manuscript and page numbers. Where they want this info can be split between top and bottom of the page–or all in one place. Some really do specify that they want the page number in the top right only. Not just put a page number somewhere, but top right, please.

Yes, these things can be done. And one change isn’t a big deal. But it’s always more than just one thing–because there’s the font that must be checked and changed, there’s some that want the first page of the story on a fresh page…and so on. I kid you not, I’ve seen at least two guidelines that had a requirement of, “Do not put two spaces after a period. Use only one.” Maybe it’s only old-farts like me that understand why a lot of people put two spaces, but I find it strange that an editor actually cares so much about submissions at the early stage to request extra spaces be taken out.

I can think of one e-zine that has a list of guidelines and then a sample submission–that doesn’t follow said guidelines!

The hardest requirements are those that want “Standard” EXCEPT they want it in the body of an email, single-spaced with double between paragraphs…

It’s a mine field, I tell you, a mine field. It can be a harrowing journey just to submit the thing…

The best news is that most e-zines and print now accept email subs. When I started this journey about 7 or 8 years ago–very few, if any, took email subs. Now, all but the top circulated take them so even with all the “non-standard” requests, submitting is a lot easier than it used to be!

Posted: March 1, 2009
Filed in Editor Advice, Writing Links