Friday, August 25, 2006

Friday 20

First up: the winners of the Tied to the Tracks giveaway are:

MiaZ

Dean

Joy (who picked Talyn by Holly Lisle, as the comment profile link doesn't want to work for me.)

Winners, please send your full name and ship-to address to me at LynnViehl@aol.com so I can get these books out to you, and my thanks to everyone who joined in sharing the people and books that teach, wow and comfort them.

A couple of new visitors have e-mailed asking what's the deal about Fridays here at the blog. This is a weekly feature we started doing here a few months back; each Friday you can post writing- or publishing-related questions for me in comments. I'll answer them to the best of my ability, or at least give you an opinion or refer you to a better source if I don't have an answer. I don't enforce the 20 questions limit unless I'm swamped or in the midst of a hurricane.

Debby's still out in the Atlantic, so any questions for me this week?

17 comments:

  1. Anonymous8:05 AM

    After reading the writeup I'm really sorry that I missed this giveaway!

    My question for you: Our writing group is discussing natural writing voice on our newsgroup, and you were the first author listed as a powerful and distinct voice. I think your voice is as authentic as they come and that shows through on your weblog as well as it does in your fiction.

    How do you think a writer can better define their voice to bring it to the level that you have without killing the natural tone?

    Lynda H.

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  2. I'm finally agent shopping and have gotten as far as marking the first cut in my 2006 Jeff Herman guide book. Do you have any suggestions for narrowing down the short list? (I'm assuming that Jeff made sure they're all reputable agencies who were still in business when the book came out.)
    Thanks! (I'll probably be back around Christmas to pester you about query letters!)

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  3. Lynda wrote: How do you think a writer can better define their voice to bring it to the level that you have without killing the natural tone?

    Most of us go through this stage in writing when we consciously or unconsciously mimic our favorite authors. Some writers never progress past that stage, which is why you have so many derivative and knockoff books out there.

    To enhance your own voice, you have first make sure you're past this mimicry stage. If not, do what you can to kick your favorite writer out of your head (writing in a genre different from theirs is a pretty reliable method.)

    We all have personal styles: we dress a certain way, do things with our hair, gesture and use certain speech patterns that define us as individuals. Those things are our body voice, so to speak.

    When writing, there are elements that you create that are unique to you. These need to come out on the page as your voice, so if there is something of your own that you feel that you do well, make that the center of your voice and do what you can to enhance it as much as possible. If your natural voice is humorous, writing funny stories would showcase it.

    The center of your voice also needs to connect with other elements that compliment it. You don't want to magnify them too much, because then you begin burlesquing yourself, but you do want to integrate them with your center and make them work together well. If you've got a way with lyrical sentence construction, for example, then you should up the wattage on other lyrical-compatible elements in your writing: poetic dialogue elements, surreal settings, etc.

    If you're not sure what the center of your writing voice should be, ask another writer to critique a chapter or story you've written. What they say they liked best about the story are your strengths; choose the one aspect that you feel best represents your overall voice as a writer and make that your center.

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  4. EJ wrote: I'm finally agent shopping and have gotten as far as marking the first cut in my 2006 Jeff Herman guide book. Do you have any suggestions for narrowing down the short list?

    I recommend looking at three things with agents: experience, client list, and the quality of their firm. My personal minimums would be at least five years experience in publishing, a client list with a good mix of authors (if you're writing in one genre only, you should look for an agent who has a good list of successful clients writing in that same genre, because it means they have the contacts you need to get your work in front of an editor), and a reputable literary agency that consistently sells to major publishers.

    Good luck with your hunt!

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  5. I realize this is sort of early to be asking, since Plague of Memory isn't out yet... but are there more Stardoc books coming?

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  6. Someone told me it was standard in agent contracts that if the agent sold a book for you that was in a series, that the agent would continue to get money on future sales of future books in that series, even if that agent did not sell the future books. For example, say you got a new agent today. Would it be standard for your "old" agent get anything for any StarDoc books past Plague of Memory (assuming that this is the last StarDoc book your "old" agent sold for you)?

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  7. I am making a "test the waters" attempt at writing. I am a story teller more than a writer and I feel I lack the detail writing skills needed. I have been told that is not a problem because I could hire an editor. Do you have suggestions on overcoming this issue and how do I locate a good editor or co-writer?

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  8. casee1:13 PM

    This is a reader question instead of a writer question...

    When will your readers know when and if Caine's book will be coming out? Your JH books really are up there as some of the best romantic suspense out there.

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  9. Shiloh wrote: ...are there more Stardoc books coming?

    My publisher has asked to see proposals for two more StarDoc novels, so if they like what I pitch and I like what they offer, yes. I'll keep you posted. :)

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  10. Kellie wrote: Someone told me it was standard in agent contracts that if the agent sold a book for you that was in a series, that the agent would continue to get money on future sales of future books in that series, even if that agent did not sell the future books. For example, say you got a new agent today. Would it be standard for your "old" agent get anything for any StarDoc books past Plague of Memory (assuming that this is the last StarDoc book your "old" agent sold for you)?

    The only standard that I know of in regard to agents who have been let go by their writers is that they continue to receive 15% of the advances and royalties for any novel they sold for that writer. If I sold a series of ten books with one agent, and got a new agent after book five, my first agent would still receive 15% of the last five books in the series under contract because she sold all ten books. This is generally non-negotiable.

    That said, there are breakup clauses that agents can put into contracts that could put a lien on future work, i.e. 15% of whatever a writer sells for a year after the agent and writer split, or 15% of the next three books the writer sells. This is the agent's way of protecting their income. It's up to you whether you want to sign a contract with that sort of clause in it.

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  11. Mike wrote: I am making a "test the waters" attempt at writing. I am a story teller more than a writer and I feel I lack the detail writing skills needed. I have been told that is not a problem because I could hire an editor. Do you have suggestions on overcoming this issue and how do I locate a good editor or co-writer?

    I am not an advocate of writers hiring outside editors or book doctors. A large majority of these folks are scammers who are only interested in making money off your dreams. Also, other than agent commissions for finished work, I don't believe professional writers should pay anything to get into print. The money should always come to us.

    I don't do collaborations, so I really can't recommend a reliable source for writing partners. A writer-for-hire who could translate your story ideas into publication-ready print is an alternative, but our rates can run anywhere from $50.00 to $300.00 per manuscript page. Kind of pricey.

    I do think you can educate yourself to improve your technical writing skills. I'm entirely self-taught as a writer, and the desire to always improve as a writer has brought me to where I am today. My method was reading every novel I could get my hands on, analyzing them for their technical and creative points, and applying what I learned from that analysis to my own writing. I still do that, and I still seek to improve my skills every day. I will never be finished with my self-education, I guess. :)

    You don't have to go it alone, either. There are some wonderful writing communities on the internet who welcome storytellers at all stages of development. I most often recommend Forward Motion to writers who want to learn more about their craft and improve their own work.

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  12. Casee wrote a lovely compliment, and: When will your readers know when and if Caine's book will be coming out?

    I'm planning to get Caine's book out in late 2007 or early 2008. The actual release will depend on who publishes it, which is what I'm working on this fall.

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  13. I heartily second Forward Motion.

    One thing I've been wondering: do you have a checklist of any sort as to when a book is ready to be sent to an agent? I've written several but I feel as though I'm in perpetual edit on all of them. If you had any suggestions, I would be forever grateful.

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  14. Tamith11:40 PM

    I don't know if this has been asked before, but how much world-building do you recommend someone do before they get into a novel? I'm fleshing out a YA Fantasy, and I'm not sure if I should have all the details in place beforehand, or make things up on an as-need basis. Or should just being aware of character motivation be my main concern? What do you usually do? Thanks!

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  15. Nir wrote: ...do you have a checklist of any sort as to when a book is ready to be sent to an agent?

    I have an editing process versus a checklist that works well for me. I edit the new material I write in the mornings once during the evening of the same day, and then I move on and don't look at it again until I finish the manuscript. Then I do one intensive full-book edit, a rewrite and a final clean-up read-through edit for typos. I think having an editing plan like this establishes a routine that trains you to finish out your novel.

    You always want your manuscript to be in the best possible shape before you send it out, so be deliberate in how you edit it. Look for typos and technical errors first; they're usually the easiest things to spot. Then read for content. You want to look for logic errors and so forth, but you also want to look at all the aspects of how the story works on the page: characterizations, pacing, plot lines, flow, etc. One way to spot problem areas is to watch how you read the manuscript. If you find yourself skimming, go back and see why that part of the book isn't interesting to you.

    If you haven't got a workable editing plan, or would prefer to be more organic about the process, then I suggest time limits. Once you have a complete manuscript, give yourself a reasonable amount of time to edit and rewrite, and then move on.

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  16. Tamith wrote: I don't know if this has been asked before, but how much world-building do you recommend someone do before they get into a novel?

    We've talked about it here and there in a limited fashion, but I'd like to address this topic a little more in depth. So (if it's okay with you) I'd like to answer your question with a post on worldbuilding on Sunday, 8/27. That will give me some time to pull some links and make up a workable worldbuilding checklist.

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  17. I'd like to answer your question with a post on worldbuilding on Sunday, 8/27

    Oh, PBW, you rule. I have been having the hardest time with worldbuilding lately and it's getting me all tied up in my story when I know I should just be writing. This will help so much.

    *dances*

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