Wednesday, February 08, 2012

How to Write Your Stupid Book: Tip 6 – When do I go on Oprah?

First of all, the Oprah ship has sailed so forget that.

Okay, let’s assume you finished your book. You gave it to friends to read and they all told you it was wonderful because they’re your friends and didn’t want to hurt your feelings. Or maybe it IS wonderful. Who am I to judge? My first book was a convoluted story about a cup of flour’s journey to be a birthday cake (seriously).

So what’s your next step?
You need to edit.

“Hold on just a damn minute, Wendy, I’ve already edited this thing a gazillion times!”

Yeah? Well then one more won’t kill you.

“So what if there are a few mistakes? If an editor loves it, won’t they be glad to fix it?”

Maybe. But the world of publishing is highly competitive. Given a hundred manuscripts arriving in her email query box every week, do you think an editor or agent is gonna say, “Wow this one is great AND it needs work so I’ll be sure to pick this manuscript over the ten others that don’t need repair!”?

So now that I’ve convinced you to edit, don’t do it.

First, take a step back and work on something else, hopefully, an entirely different book. Give your brain a rest from those weary characters and that tired old premise and start something fresh. Then come back to your story in a couple weeks or a couple months. You thought you caught all the grammar errors and plot holes the first few times? I’m betting you’ll find even more this go round.

What about critique groups? They can be great. If you can, you should join RWA, MWA and any other writing organization that gives you access to like minded individuals and wonderful critique groups. But if you join a critique group, go in with your eyes, ears and mind wide open. If a lot of people take issue with something in your story, you should probably take a look at it but, in the end, it’s YOUR story and you need to decide what goes and what stays.

So NOW can I send it out to agents, editors and Oprah?

How about one more tip? Read your dialogue out loud. At least some of it. Why? Because that’s the best way to tell if your characters actually sound like real people -- people you know and hang out with -- or if they are stiff and formal like they’ve just stepped out of Ms. Hatty’s Haughty Finishing School.

Okay, I’m off to ready some dialogue. Out loud. To my dog. Nothing like a captive audience!


Christine said...

Indeed! I attended the finishing school of one Ms. Hatty and I resent the implication that I would be a lesser character, undeserving to be in your book, especially if that book were to be recommended by Miss Oprah Winfrey.
Love these posts Wendy! (Will there be one on animal dialogue? To translate or not translate from werewolf... THAT is a question!

Wendy Roberts said...

Christine, indeed to howl or not that IS the question lol!

Bob said...

Wow, I've been writing occult fiction most of my life and still looking for an agent. I finally found a blog that doesn't sugar coated everything and tells it like I know it is.

Wendy Roberts said...

Hey Bob, glad you found me. I don't sugar coat. Unless you're secretly a donut. Then all bets are off. Come back often. Bring your friends

Wendy Norris Roberts said...

Well Bob should be careful, cause we all know what happens to sugar-coated donuts, and Christine would be wonderful in your book as a main character, no matter what the premise is!

The blog being translated into werewolf would be a nice change of pace from the Klingon or elvish blogs out there.

And lastly, Oprah should have had your book series on her show. She really missed out and I think that will go down in history as her greatest blunder, causing her to show up on your doorstep one day begging to do a belated review, which you would of course, refuse!

Wendy Roberts said...

Wendy, besides having a great name, you're a great person. Thanks for the support!

B.E. Sanderson said...

Oh definitely read dialogue out loud. Heck, read it all out loud and you'll catch things that looked perfectly fine on paper. And use different voices - so that British accent you thought you nailed at first, doesn't come off Jamaican to your readers.

Another awesome post, Wendy. You rock. And forget Oprah. (After all, she picked James Frey, didn't she?) The serious place to be is BookTV on CSPAN2.

Wendy Roberts said...

B.E. I use different voices too and once when I was doing a reading at a book store I had to stop myself mid-sentence when I realized I was lowering my voice for Zack's dialogue ha ha!