Writing Tips

My Love/Hate Relationship with Revisions

Young womanI loathe writing revision letters but feel very satisfied once I’m finished with one, like I’ve done my job. As I read a manuscript, I take notes with sparkly pen (because I hate taking notes so why not make them pretty) and my comments tend to be unfit for public viewing. On a designated day, I’ll take the manuscript, with its sparkly notes, and reinterpret my ranting scribble into helpful (I hope) feedback.

If the world were a perfect place, all manuscripts that crossed my desk would be ready to edit (or wouldn’t need editing, which would mean unemployment for me, so thank you for any imperfections). I imagine that writers don’t like receiving revision letters either, but expect them.

So can we establish a mutual dread of the revision letter?

Some facts I’ve learned about revisions as an editor and writer:

Diplomacy is nice but writers want direct feedback–page numbers, chapters that need extra work. It would be so easy for me if I could just write: Can you add romantic conflict in this manuscript? Yeah, sure. Like, where?

The longer the revision letter, the greater chance the writer will run for the Maalox. I try to keep letters short (1-3 pages) and sweet–without being too saccharine. Even better if I can do Track Changes in the manuscript itself so the writer can see areas to improve. But not everyone is technological (okay, we’re talking about me here–and Track Changes means no sparkly pen).

Writers can smell BS, so I try not to BS in a revision letter. But I also avoid being unnecessarily critical (which is so easy nowadays, isn’t it?): Ugh, pllleeeeassse, make the heroine stop with her whining!!! I find it’s effective to fashion the revision note in the form of a question: Can you have the hero take off his shirt at the end of Chapter 3?

After writing or reading a revision letter, take time to digest it. When I received a revision letter for my book, I forgot about it for a whole weekend. By the time Monday night rolled around, I was ready to tackle every note and felt good about improving my work (I still needed a Maalox power shake, though).

If I start a revision letter in the morning (with that Nike mantra: Just Do It), chances are it will go out that same morning. Just do it. Write that letter. Go through those revisions, point by point.

We’re all here for the same purpose: to provide the best book possible for your audience. Yes, I have more revisions to request. Will I get that letter out today? Only the sparkly pen knows for sure.

Romantic Life Lessons

It’s Always Good to Take a Break

Seniors Shocked by TVI usually work on weekends, but this time, I didn’t (maybe I edited a few chapters).  If you edit or write, there’s always the feeling that your work is never done. At least, I feel this way all the time.  Just because the work day is over, does it mean you should stop?

Yes.

Not stopping can cause harsher burn-out later. I know my limits now so on Friday night, I looked at my list of things to do and immediately went into denial mode. What work?  For 48 hours, my work brain froze and I embarked on a marathon of Six Feet Under with my husband, played endless games of Candy Crush, went couch shopping, bought 2 (okay 4) pairs of shoes, and started a 750-piece puzzle (I live dangerously).

Tomorrow I will feel better about tackling that long list.

Romantic Life Lessons, Writing Tips

How to Impress an Editor

Female fictionI was thinking a lot this week about what pleases me as an editor free coffee, a day of no meetings, Starbucks downstairs. Often it’s an writer’s preparedness, flexibility and niceness–and talent, too. Over the years I’ve met a lot of authors at conferences and came up with a list of ways to stand out to an editor. Of course, it’s more important to deliver the best work possible, but in addition to this, some tips to remember:

If you find a giant red shoe chair as in this picture, please contact me immediately. Must have!

Don’t worry about being nervous (you should see me the day before I travel). Just come prepared and ready to talk about your story, however you want to pitch it.

I’m not a fan of elevator pitches, but I give kudos for persistence.

Edit your work thoroughly. It’s so satisfying to see a proposal that is typo-free and grammatically sound. Never leave all the work to the editor.

Know the publisher. As with a job interview, you want to investigate a company and read its books, understand each imprint, and the submission process. This will give you more control, as well. Informed is well armed–and a confidence booster.

Professionalism: Be nice. I can’t say that 100% of writers I’ve worked with are sugar and spice and everything nice, but a professional/cordial demeanor certainly motivates me to work harder. It’s crazy, I know, but if a person asks me politely for help, I want to do whatever it takes. Barking and ordering makes everyone miserable. Isn’t life is too short?

Optimism: The more positive you are about your work, the more I want to know about it. Writing can be a lonely business, but regardless of the storm cloud over your head, pretending optimism can go a long way, even if it’s only for 10 minutes with an editor. Then get yourself a piece of cake (that’s what I do).

Flexibility: I love when a writer can take criticism and make her story even better than she’d imagined. Revising doesn’t hurt. And if it does hurt too much or feel off, maybe you’re getting questionable advice.

Know a little something about the editor you’re pitching to. This is not a must, but I tend to remember people who are aware of what books I work on, my author base, maybe my favorite band (Duran Duran). It’s called narcissism.

Never give up on this dream. I always love hearing about a writer’s first sale after years and years of writing. I’m a prime example, though I didn’t try to publish as actively as most romance writers. After decades, I even took a break to not write and sometimes you need those hiatuses. No matter what your situation, just don’t give up on anything that you want so passionately. This will impress an editor.

Romantic Suspense, Writing Tips

Wednesday’s Pet Peeves

??????????????????????????Forgive my absence. In addition to my editing, I’d been doing what you writers call “revisions.” Though I definitely needed to revise, it was ego bruising to realize that my work wasn’t perfect. One of my authors said to me, “Isn’t payback a [rhymes-with-witch]?” It is! And after all the revision letters and rejections I’ve written, I’m sure to get even more payback.

But first to a few pet peeves I’ve rounded up since last time:

Shocked and pregnant heroines don’t always toss their cookies: I’ll admit, barfing in romance novels makes me want to barf. I know it shows a person’s reaction to terror or the heroine’s being in the early stages of pregnancy. But for me, the ew-factor stays with me forever after. Some authors are very descriptive about the process of upchucking, too. Now if you want to torment me, by all means, have a vomitarium, which the characters can visit after each meal.

Dress your characters in attractive, contemporary clothing: Nix the tan slacks (they are hipper as khakis or jeans) and the colorful sweatshirt with a big glittery flower on it (guilty). Avoid the stone-washed denim jacket with hearts embroidered by the heroine to go with the bandanna she wears around her neck. The best way to dress your characters is to look at your favorite clothing catalog or check out other covers of books you like–and make the clothes as un-remarkable as you can (unless they’re in evening gowns and tuxes).

Buried treasure is very Pirates of the Caribbean: Though I buy books where characters are finding buried treasure, lost art or special amulets from ancient times, I’m not a personal fan of these stories…and I’ve been seeing a lot of them. I will buy them mostly because the authors skillfully convince me that readers will like them or I just like the writing. These story-lines tend to feel too dated to me and what I might have read a few decades ago. It’s true that every case is different so you might have a search for lost artifacts at the bottom of the Caspian Sea and I might love it. Usually, I prefer a glitzier side of treasure, which would be a room full of gems disappearing (with a dead body left behind) or killing for a special diamond.

And that’s about it for this Wednesday. Have a great rest of the week!