Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, March 29-April 4, 2015

Does it serve your story? Why killing your darlings is a mark of the mature writer. Roz Morris.

K.M. Weiland asks, What are pinch points and how can they make your story easier to write?

Show what your characters are thinking and feeling like a writer, rather than a director. Katie’s Wednesday vlog.

Ruth Harris shares the ten commandments of productive professional writers.

Here we are at day 29 of Janice Hardy’s online novel revision workshop: Eliminate unnecessary repetition. Though the month is over, you can peruse this lovely series of posts for revision assistance any time you want 🙂

Donald Maass discusses emotional work on Writer Unboxed.

Editor Rachel Starr Thomson guests on C.S. Lakin’s Live, Write, Thrive and writes about weaving in backstory.

Editorial advice: Stop using two spaces after a period. Cult of Pedagogy.

Eight natural phenomena to use in your stories. Mythcreants.

Reading makes us smarter and nicer. Readers are more empathetic. Who knew? Time.

Mary Robinette Kowal played an April Fool’s joke that wasn’t really a joke. She really is going to be working on Sesame Street.

Andrew Pyper is featured in Now.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia and her novel Signal to Noise have gained some high-profile attention. i09.

Culture and conflict on Warpworld: Dr. Robert Runte discusses Canadian vs. American Science Fiction.

J.K. Rowlings’ ten pieces of advice on the lessons of failure (and the commencement speech from which they were taken). The Guardian.

Six John Green Quotes on writing. Authors Publish.

Jack Kerouac’s 31 beliefs about writing. The Write Practice.

This is beautiful and poetic and the total reason I love abandoned places:

Masie Williams will be appearing in the next series of Doctor Who! i09.

The many faces of Tatiana Maslany. The New York Times Magazine. Are you looking forward to the return of Orphan Black?

Outlander and the spanking heard around the world by John Doyle for The Globe and Mail.

Spoilers are coming: George R.R. Martin releases a chapter of the latest Song of Ice and Fire novel. Time.

It was a writerly week!

See you on Thursday 🙂

Tipsday

CanWrite! 2014: Agent panel, June 19

Panelists: Sam Hiyate, Carly Watters, Marie Campbell

Sam HiyateCarly WattersMarie Campbell

 

 

 

 

 

Moderator: James Dewar

JD: What’s changed in the author-agent-editor relationship over the years?

SH: When I was studying English literature, agents were invisible. Editors shaped the work. Now, there is too much work for an editor to do. Some of that work has devolved upon agents. The leisurely relationship between author and editor is a thing of the past. Editors want a perfectly edited manuscript to they can turn around and sell it to their publishing house.

MC: Whatever golden age there might have been, ended just before I started working in the industry. YA is a big market now. Editors are not so much about developing talent, but about recognizing it. We need to be good “pickers.” Some agents have moved into this gap.

CW: Agents are also fighting against each other to get their authors placed.

JD: How much time do you spend developing authors?

SH: I couldn’t give you a percentage, but somewhere between three and five drafts.

MC: It varies with the client. It could be anywhere from one to twelve drafts.

CW: I spend between three and six months, not just editing, but understanding the vision for the work. The “revise and resubmit” letter might contain one to seven pages of suggested revisions. You have to find out if you can work together. Some agents won’t take on a client without doing an R&R letter. They won’t take the risk.

JD: What are some of the reasons authors don’t respond to your suggestions the way you expect?

CW: The author doesn’t take it seriously. They don’t understand how much work goes into reading and analyzing and preparing the R&R.

MC: I was at a conference last year on a panel reading first pages. The top three, as the prize, would be given consideration, moved to the top of my slush pile. Only one of them responded right away. I read and signed her. The second one just came in last month. Sometimes they’re scared. When you get the opportunity, jump for it. It may not be there in six months.

SH: The easy answer is that Canadians are afraid. Americans want to see the money. Adopt a professional persona. Andrew Pyper wrote five or six books. His agent asked to see what he was working on. He presented it to his agent and the agent asked, “do you have anything else?” It’s a conversation.

MC: I had a conversation with one of my writers who said he had so many ideas he could work on. It’s my job to say, “no, no, no, yes.”

JD: What is exciting you these days?

SH: Ask me when I’ve had a few cocktails.

MC: Because I’ve worked in children’s literature for so long, it’s exciting to see the new work coming in. Because there’s so much of it, the bar is set high. Picture books were dying out, but now they’re coming back.

CW: In the acknowledgements of her second book, one of my authors said that without me, she’d be a starving artist. I was thrilled. It’s the best part of being an agent, being able to grow with your authors.

SH: I can give you an answer now. There is a graphic novel about two girls coming of age in this one summer in cottage country. Canadian writers do this very well. The book was #8 on the New York Times, moved up to #7, dropped off the list, but now a review has come out and we’re waiting to see where it goes.

JD: When you look at a manuscript, what are you hoping to find?

CW: The book always comes first, but I look for potential for book cubs, translations, you never know.

MC: With kids’ books, you have to consider the age of your audience, and then look at merchandizing. Is there series potential? Having said that, I will never say the word “trilogy” again.

SH: It depends on the book. The first may be a distinctively Canadian book, but two or three down the line, it could be a whole different story. Look at Yan Martel. Pi was his fourth book. His first was a collection of short stories.

JD: So, the book is not the end of it.

SH: The moment Pi hit the mainstream, everyone went back to buy his other two novels.

JD: How are Canadian authors doing on the world stage?

SH: That’s a really big question. Ebooks are based around genre. It’s getting harder and harder to sell literary novels. The Luminaries is essentially a thriller written in a literary style.

CW: Canadian authors aren’t as ambitious. They’re too laid back. Literary is still a market. If you’re writing genre, though, consider your setting. An anonymous town that could be anywhere in North America won’t be as problematic for an American publisher.

MC: Writers have come to me and said, “I’ve been successful in Canada. Now I want to break into the American market. Canadian’s are good at problem novels. American’s love them too, but they don’t translate into the UK market. It can affect foreign rights and sales. Consider changing your setting to Detroit.

JD: If you had one piece of advice for emerging writers, what would it be?

MC: Treat it like a business. It’s my business and it’s hard work. It’s creative, but it’s also a business.

SH: If you think your manuscript is perfect, it’s probably not. Make sure you have readers, alphas and betas, and critique groups lines up.

CW: Define what success is for you. Plan for it. Implement the plan.

Q: Is there an art to selecting alpha and beta readers?

CW: You have to give some thought to who your ideal audience is. Find people who are better than you to work with. Read everything.

MC: One of the most successful, grass-roots groups I’ve heard of is a workshop run by an editor.

SH: There isn’t a formula. Getting criticism can destroy your work. Art is not created by committee. Have a conversation with your critique group and your readers. Be discerning.

MC: A book club does not trump an editor. Don’t try to defend your work by saying that your group loved it.

Q: Do books set in other countries, like Australia, do well in Canada?

CW: Good books travel.

SH: Catton (The Luminaries) is from New Zealand.

MC: Children’s books are not sold to or bought by children, but in libraries and schools (teachers, librarians, parents). It can be tricky. For every rule there is an exception.

JD: Is sex okay in a YA novel? We’re seeing a lot more of it.

MC: We call it content.

CW: It needs to be part of a character’s development and not gratuitous.

SH: Erotica is still on the New York Times Bestsellers Lists, but the market may be saturated until the next big thing comes along.

Q: Have you ever turned down something you later regretted?

CW: I haven’t passed on anything that became a bestseller, but maybe I failed to get a deal I wanted, or someone beat me to the punch.

MC: I presented a book to an editor who passed on it, but later, when that book sold and was produced by another house, she pointed to it as her “ideal” book.

SH: Agents compete all the time.

MC: On the adult side, I recommended a book to two colleagues. One passed and the other took it and ran with it. It ended up being on the Globe and Mail bestseller list for eight weeks.

Thank God Harry Potter never crossed my desk!


 

I’m just going to head right into the panels and sessions for CanWrite! 2014. I’ll give a little perspective in my wrap post at the end.

Since I’m away from home, I don’t have copies of the fiction and poetry I was going to post this weekend with me. I’ll try to get one of those posts up tomorrow.

CanWrite! 2013: Open mic, Andrew Pyper, and Cordelia Strube

I already mentioned the welcome reception and the morning creative writing circles, but have since launched into panels and sessions without mentioning what happened the evenings of June 13 and 14.

Back-pedalling now …

Open mic and shortlist readings

On June 13, interested parties were encouraged to sign up for the open mic.  I did and intended to read the revised opening of my novel as I had at Wordstock, then at supper I heard that the readings would be restricted to five minutes.  This was reduced to three by the time I arrived due to the number of last minute sign-ups.

Not having brought my poetry with me that night, I read as much of my opening as I could.  It was well-received.

Other readers offered their poetry and stories (one humorous one was about discovering one was having a heart attack while on the toilet – shades of Elvis) the organizers sticking strictly to the three-minute limit.

June 14 was to have been readings from the authors short listed for the CAA Literary Awards, but again, a last-minute change opened the floor to additional readers.  I signed up and brought my poetry, a much more appropriate genre for the three-minute limit.

I got to hear the end of the Elvis story and some more great poetry, fiction, and non-fiction.

I enjoyed the readings from the short listed works.  With one exception, none of them could show up in person.  The man who did was Michael S. Cross, author of A Biography of Robert Baldwin: The Morning-Star of Memory (Oxford University Press).

Michael’s reading was wonderful.  I didn’t know Robert Baldwin was such a fascinating character.

Another fascinating author was Jane Doe. She read from her book The Story of Jane Doe.  She is an advocate and activist and her story is a compelling one.  I encourage everyone who has an interest in women’s issues, advocacy, or the attitudes of the legal system to victims of rape and violent crime to pick up this book.

Andrew Pyper

Andrew Pyper

Andrew Pyper

Andrew Pyper is the author of six novels, most recently, The Demonologist.

Andrew’s session was on the afternoon of June 14, and it was as much workshop as presentation.

The session, Getting organized, getting started, focused on the essential elements required before an author begins to write a novel.

  1. An Idea;
  2. A Premise;
  3. A Protagonist;
  4. A Hook;
  5. A Structure; and
  6. An Outline.

He also offered six tips for overcoming roadblocks.

One of the most interesting pieces of his presentation was about ideas.  Yes, one must have at least one good idea to propel one’s plot, but the author shouldn’t stop there.

Traditional thought and misconception would imply that one idea must be made big enough to become the basis for a novel.  Andrew suggested that rather than one idea expanding to fit a novel, that a multitude of ideas should funnel down and feed into a single novel.

This made a lot of sense to me, and when I think about it, that’s how I write fiction.  I never write about one thing.

The premise is distinguished from the main idea of the novel because of its scope.  Andrew’s explanation reminded me of Larry Brooks’s.

He offered the following example:

Idea: A modern-day Frankenstein.

Premise: Archaeologists extract DNA from mosquitoes trapped in pre-historic amber and use it to clone dinosaurs. A philanthropist establishes a theme park around the beasts and invites a select group of scientists and family to witness his triumph; then the beasts escape (Jurassic Park).

The key to a premise is “high concept,” a concept that can be evasive.  This is why Larry Brooks is forever explaining the difference between idea, concept, and premise on his site 😉

Andrew had us write our premises for the Rob Ford story.  As expected, we all had different takes on the well-publicized scandal.

I won’t give away the whole of Andrew’s session, but I will say that it was informative and fun.

Cordelia Strube

Cordelia Strube’s session, on the afternoon of June 15, was mostly workshop.  She’d actually had workshops on both afternoons (14th and 15th) and anticipated that conference-goers would attend both, but a miscommunication occurred and the message was never conveyed to attendees.

Cordelia has published eight funny, powerful, sparse, cathartic and critically acclaimed novels, among them Alex & Zee, Teaching Pigs to Sing, The Barking Dog, Blind Night, and Lemon. Her ninth, Milosz was published last year.

Her plan was to have participants from the first session return and revise the work they had started the day before.  Those of us who only came on the second day would have to start from scratch.

Cordelia gave us a framework and some strategies for getting into our focused writing.  She then distributed horoscopes and a number of other prompts: postcards, small items, all of which were to inform our writing project for the afternoon.

After we were sent off to write however and wherever we wished, the class was asked to share the results of their writing.

It was an excellent session.

________________________________________________________________________

I should take a moment to mention that there were a number of sessions happening concurrently on Friday and Saturday afternoons.  I can only report on the ones that I attended.

Specialty sessions, at a nominal additional cost, also took place during the mornings.

There were also agent pitch sessions occurring Thursday, Friday, and Saturday mornings.  Though I did not opt into these, they were very popular and booked solid.

I like the way in which they were conducted.  Each author was to submit their query letter and first five pages of their novel in advance of the pitch session.  I think that this is a much better way to conduct pitches than to do them blindly.  It’s better for the agents because they have a sense of the author’s work.  It’s better for the writer because they don’t only have their two to five minutes to convey the meat of their novel.

A professional photographer was also on site to take author shots for the attendees.  I happily paid the (again, nominal) fee for this.  I should have the results next week and I hope they will be better than my efforts to date.

Tomorrow: The final panel, Traditional vs. Self-publishing.

G’night y’all 🙂

CanWrite! 2013: Day 2 agents’ panel

After another morning of creative writing and lunch, conference-goers again gathered in the academic building for the 1 pm Agents’ Panel Discussion.

James Dewar acted as moderator for the panel, which consisted of: Sam Hiyate, president of The Rights Factory and Carly Watters, agent at the P.S. Literary Agency.

JD: What are you looking for right now?

CW: Picture books; contemporary YA (thriller/mystery, romance); women’s fiction; upmarket; non-fiction; and multi-media.

SH: New agents are looking for new clients. I’m full up myself, right now, but occasionally I do sign the odd author.  For non-fiction, a platform is essential. Most non-fiction sells on proposal alone.

JD: What can a fiction writer do to obtain representation?

CW: Write an amazing novel.  Platform does not matter.

SH: Debut novelists—sometimes even established ones—can fail to sell.  I like a strong voice, someone who can perform acrobatics with a sentence.

CW: I have a more commercial taste, a Book Club book would appeal to me.

JD: How do you move an “almost there” author to “there”?

SH: I’m a different beast than most agents and will work with the writer to edit the work.  Most agents won’t.  Others will set the writer up with a freelance editor.

CW: I’ll write an edit letter to the writer if the good stuff is REALLY GOOD.  Some books are edited seven times before they are sent to a publisher.  If the writer has the ability to turn their MS around quickly, the chances are better.

SH: My best advice is to find an agent who “gets you.”

JD: What should authors NOT do?

SH: Don’t send your MS in too early.

CW: In a pitch session, do not go through your whole synopsis.

SH: Sometimes the pitch or query can be better than the book.

JD: We’ll open the floor to audience questions (AQ) now.

AQ: Do I need an agent first, or can I approach a publisher directly?

CW: Agent first.  Most larger publishers won’t accept unsolicited manuscripts.

SH: An agent can say “no,” however.  An editor will refer the author to an agent anyway.  Send it and see what happens.

AQ: What does an agent do?

SH: Our job is to create a competitive situation around your book.

AQ: Can you have more than one agent?

SH: We contract exclusively, much like a real estate agent would.  Your book is the property we’re selling.  Our commission is 15% on domestic and 20% on foreign sales.

AQ: In the context of the “Literary Apocalypse” of self- and ebook publishing, do writers even need publishers anymore?

CW: Some agencies have publishing arms, but it gets complicated.

SH: Self-publishing is a new way for agents to discover talent.  Eventually, all the good material gets scooped up by the publishers.  Cases in point: Amanda Hocking, E.L. James, and Hugh Howey.

CW: These are exceptions to the rule.  Agents can’t turn $10k ebook sales into a traditional deal, but if you sell $200k+, that’s different.

SH: In the future, writers will have more control.

AQ: If an author has published a book but is not happy with the rights (terms) is there anything that can be done?

SH: No, if the rights have already been contracted out, that’s it.  Most agents won’t negotiate a bad contract for you, though.  Publishing houses and agencies start out with really talented, committed, and enthusiastic people who are grossly underpaid, for like ten years.  In that time, the ones who can’t maintain their passion leave for greener pastures.  The ones who can, become successful.

The agents’ panel was great, and both Sam and Carly were professional and up front with their insiders’ looks into the publishing world.

Tomorrow: I’ll cover Day 1 and Day 2 evening events, and Day 2 and 3 afternoons with Andrew Pyper and Cordelia Strube.  That will leave the Awards Gala and wrap-up posts.  So three more days, and it’s all over!

Don’t despair, there will be lots more Writerly Goodness coming your way this summer.  Book reviews and hopefully some more author interviews, pupdates (yes, there’s at least one more coming), and updates regarding the backyard office (interesting things afoot there).  I’ll also have some updates on my work in progress and any other conferences or events that I get to.

I will be returning to my weekends-only posting schedule after this week, though.  Blogging every day, though fun for a short period, takes up a lot of writing time (!)  My goal is to have my current revision done before the summer’s out.

Until tomorrow!