Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Overwriting: Less Is Often More

If you have a tendency to overwrite--or have been accused of overwriting--it means you're sacrificing pacing for description. Some authors overwrite settings, some character movements...

In the manuscript I'm editing today, the overwriting is focused on character staging and movements. The author is so focused on the minute, physical movements of the characters that it's actually more difficult to picture than if he'd been more simple in his description.

Consider whether your love of description is slowing the pacing of your novel. Can you increase the pacing by simplifying, particularly when it comes to things we can all easily picture. Some rooms, settings, institutions are so commonplace to all of us that we need little in the way of description to picture these things--think schools, weddings, funerals, cold case file rooms, airplane travel, bike messengers... There are so many things common to all of us that the reader doesn't need much in the way of description to fill in the rest.

Focus on describing those things unique to your perspective, story, and characters.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

BETTING BLIND Book Giveaway!

If you enjoy the occasional free book, you may want to click the link below for a free copy of my author Lily Gardner's Betting Blind, which is the second book in the Lennox Cooper Series. Lily's first book in the series is titled A Bitch Called Hope. As you may be able to tell from the titles, poker is a feature throughout the book and also sometimes a reflection of her protagonist's love life.

To claim a free copy of Betting Blind through Instafreebie, click here.
To read more about Lily and the book, visit her website by clicking here.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

VERONICA'S GRAVE in New York Post!

Congratulations to my She Writes Press editorial client author Barbara Donsky, whose book VERONICA'S GRAVE (about to be released through She Writes Press) was featured in the New York Post.

Barbara says her book is "...the capstone on the love affair I had with the mother I lost." This is a beautifully written book with the exploration of so many themes, from the damage family secrets can do to a child and historical New York, to coming of age, women's education and more.

To read the full New York Post article, click here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Offer of Representation! What Do I Do?

Yesterday, on the way home from lunch, I received an email from one of my editorial clients who received an offer of representation just one week after shopping her book. She was panicked. She wasn't sure of next steps, what the right etiquette is when one has received an offer.

When we were finished working on her book, I referred this author out to a few agents who I thought might be interested in her work. Since I was paid to work on her project, there is a conflict of interest in my representing her. I knew she would get an agent when I referred her out, I just didn't expect she'd get an offer so soon. 

We probably worked on four to five drafts of her memoir, though this took under a year as she worked quick and improved significantly with each revision. I've had a few authors like her, where with every revision, there is new and interesting material (often memoir authors remember things as they go). 

In case you are wondering what the proper etiquette is when you receive an offer of representation from one of the many agents reading your book, I've put together a little list.

1. You need to decide if you want to hear what the other agents reading your project have to say or whether the offering agent is your first choice. If the offering agent is your first choice, then you can withdraw your manuscript from the other agents by sending an email that says "OFFER REC'D" in the subject line and letting them know you are withdrawing the project. Thank them for their time. 
2. If the agent that offered isn't your first choice agent, or you simply want to hear what others have to say, tell the offering agent you need to give the other agents time to read; we are used to and expect this. 
3. Compose an email to all the agents reading your work with "OFFER REC'D" in the subject line and let them know you've received an offer of representation but that you'd like to give them the time to read the manuscript. Tell them how much time you are giving them. If they don't have at least one weekend within that timeframe, you may put yourself at a disadvantage. I have had to forego reading projects because of the timing. We often read on weekends, so if we don't have one where we can read, we may need to pass.
4. If you have more than one offer of representation, be sure to schedule time with agent to get a sense of which one may be the best fit. What is their vision for your book? Will they help to build your platform and guide your career? What is their submission strategy? What is their communication style? Decide which agent is the best fit for you. 

Although my editorial client has not yet made her decision, I'm confident she will have more than one offer on her book. I was so excited for her yesterday. I'm looking forward to seeing who has the opportunity to represent her. 

VERONICA'S GRAVE Receives Great Kirkus Review

Congratulations to my editorial client Barbara Donsky, whose memoir VERONICA'S GRAVE, soon to be released through She Writes Press, received a great review from Kirkus. I couldn't be more happy for Barbara. Barbara has written a beautiful and soulful memoir on the loss of her mother when she was a young child.

To get more detail on the plot, read the full Kirkus review by clicking here.

2016 Next Generation Indie Book Award Finalists

Congratulations to my author Tj Turner and editorial client Ellen Sherman 
on being finalists in the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards! Ellen, 
who published with She Writes Press, is a finalist in two categories (General
Fiction and Second Novel). Tj, whose Joseph Foster Series is published with
Oceanview Publishing, is a finalist in the Thriller category. 

To see other finalists, click here to see the full list.
To read more about Tj Turner, click here.
To read more about Ellen Sherman, click here

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

How To Title Your Manuscript

Yesterday evening found me scanning the content of a memoir I'm editing, in search of a good working title. The author has signed with hybrid publisher She Writes Press, and their marketing department needs a solid working title to gain early interest from book buyers.

Titles are often difficult for authors because the themes aren't always apparent when you're so close to your work. Agents will often help retitle projects before shopping them to publishers. And publishers will sometimes change titles as well.

The hope is that whatever your working title may be, it doesn't work against you as you try and get an agent or publisher. You want a title that stands out, but not in a negative way.

I've put together a few things to think about when searching for a title for your project. These suggestions are for both fiction and nonfiction, though some tips may not apply to one or the other.

1. Do a search on your title on Amazon and see if it's taken. If it has been used recently, or has been used by a number of authors, be prepared for a title change. The more cliche the title, the more likely it is to be in use. Avoid cliche titles.

2. One-, two-, and three-word titles often make a strong impact, though literary titles can be longer. What suits your work best? In the memoir I worked on yesterday, I'm leaning toward a three- to four-word title because of the literary quality of the author's writing.

3. Is there a phrase in the content of your work that can act as the overall umbrella for the story, speaking to its themes or premise, and possibly work as a double entendre? A great title will add layering to your story, possibly give the reader an "aha" moment if used at a pivotal moment in the story, though hopefully not come too early in the text. If your title does reside in the content, you want the reveal to come toward the last quarter of the manuscript in order to have some impact.

4. Do a word search on your manuscript through and see if this helps in identifying unique or key words that when combined can create a meaningful title.

5. Identify the major internal and external conflicts of the manuscript and see if this helps you come up some viable title options. How are these internal and external conflicts acting upon your characters?

6. Can your setting play a role in your title? One of my favorite titles is my author Joe Clifford's Lamentation, because the setting plays as much of a strong role as any character in the book and Lamentation Mountain looks over the small town where the book is set. The title also acts as a double entendre in the sense that you can almost hear the lament of the people from this cold, dark, impoverished town.

7. If you are subtitling a memoir or nonfiction project, how specific do you need to get in your subtitle? This depends on how specific the title is. If you have more of an abstract title (can't tell what the book is about from the title alone), your subtitle will need to act to inform the reader on what the book is about (the more specific the better). Take a look at memoir and other nonfiction titles and subtitles to see if you can get a sense of what I mean.

One memoir I helped to title was Veronica's Grave: A Daughter's Memoir by Barbara Donsky. We had a selection of many titles to choose from, but most were too abstract and didn't give a sense of what the book was about. We needed something with impact. Veronica was the name of Barbara's mother. This is a book about a child and the early loss of her mother, but also the fact that her mother's name was all but erased by the family and her grave remained unmarked until Barbara visits it at the end of her story. The name Veronica also came up in other instances in the story. Using her mother's name in the title seemed like an important way to give her mother back her name as well as act as the perfect umbrella under which Barbara could address the other themes of her book.

The goal of a good title is to pique the interest of the reader, agent or editor. If you plan to go the traditional publishing route, the agent or editor will be your first stop. Again, agents will usually help to retitle a work if the title has no impact. And even after you work to retitle a manuscript with your agent (like I did with two recent authors) the publisher may retitle the work to better suit the marketplace (from agent to publisher, "Blood Type" to At What Cost and "Killer Park" to The Drum Within).

It's rare that a title has completely turned me off to a project, but it does happen, so this is what you are looking to avoid. You don't want to be underestimated by agents and editors because of a bad title.

[As more ways to think about titling your manuscript occur to me, I'll update this post.]

Conference Dates

Time to get this blog started! 

I thought I'd begin by listing a few conferences I'll be attending where you can meet me in person and may have an opportunity to pitch to me or talk to me about your project:

Mill Valley, CA (May 1)
Marin, CA (May 14)
Seattle, WA (July 28-31)
Portland, OR (Aug 11-14)
Nashville, TN (Aug 18-21)