A. Victoria Mixon, Editor

September 22, 2009

Waiting. . .

I apologize for the snafu, but WordPress accidentally published the post I was working on, announcing the new blog. I’m assuming it automatically mailed to everyone on the RSS feed. Woops.

So my sys admin got to work hustling to get the new blog up right away. Unfortunately, it turns out it takes the host several hours to get the name up. We are now waiting.

I’ll re-post the announcement when the new blog goes up this afternoon.

Thanks for your patience, everyone! I’m writing a good, old-fashioned, A. Victoria Mixon essay of the craft of fiction for the new blog, even as we live and breathe. . .oh, happy day!

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September 21, 2009

Starting a new blog

Filed under: Being a Writer,Blogging,Interviews — Victoria @ 12:43 pm
Tags: , ,

The A. Victoria Mixon, Editor Blog Summit

So, we’ve been in big conference over here at the blog all weekend, and I think we’re coming to some decisions:

1) I’m going to start a new blog so I can continue writing the essays you’re all familiar with, which have been log-jamming in my head for the last few weeks (quickly reaching critical mass).

The new blog will also have guest posts and interviews. (I have claymation pioneer Craig Bartlett lined up next, one of the best animators working today. He’ll talk about storyboarding, storytelling, and the creation of vivid characters, as soon as he gets his head above water after the launch of his new cartoon, Dinosaur Train.)

I’ll charge a nominal fee for the new blog to strip out the freebie scrapers and post a copyright notice in clear, straight-forward English so we all know the ground rules. If I still have trouble with freeloaders, I’ll refer to the expert mentioned at the end of this post.

The blog should go up sometime this week—we just have to wait for late night so my sys admin can move this whole kit-&-caboodle to our own servers and get off WordPress’s. Two birds in the bush, as it were.

The fee will be intentionally low in order to keep the essays available to starving artists as part of my karma, however the old posts will probably not be available anymore, as I’m shopping them right now as a book. Don’t worry—I always revisit the same information over and over again, anyway, presenting it in different lights to help you grasp it.

It’s just like fiction: the basics may be limited (they are), but the potential for great uses is infinite.

2) I’m going to maintain this blog for calls for fiction submissions, links to articles of interest to fiction writers, the blogroll, information about my editing services, and teasers for the essay blog. You’ll go through this blog to subscribe to the essay blog, so you’ll all be notified when that goes up, and it’ll be simple and obvious how to get onboard.

3) As far as the wonderful world of free information on the Internet, we are pretty conversant with the issues here at Blog Mixon. My sys admin is a community leader of some repute in the Linux open-source world, a regular contributor to IBM’s Developerworks site, and a frequent speaker at some of the major Linux open-source conferences—we actually talk free information over our dinner table quite a bit. You can only imagine the conversations our son has had to sit through in the last few weeks.

And I’ve decided to draw a distinction on this blog between “free” information (which isn’t really free, since it does cost someone some time and energy to investigate and post it, including whatever scientists or artists are involved in the original source) and content.

Information is facts. Stuff you can look up and verify in a variety of places.

Content is facts filtered through a particular person’s individual consciousness, shaped and colored and presented by that person’s accumulated life experience and wisdom (or lack thereof).

If that person’s a technical or informative blogger, they’re synthesizing information about their industry to illuminate certain issues they find important, using their personal worldview to share the significance of those issues with others. If that person’s a casual blogger, they’re synthesizing information about their personal life, and again their personality is what’s significant. If that person’s an artist, they’re synthesizing everything they know about their art through their own interpretation, sharing Art itself with other artists and art-lovers.

Starting to sound familiar? In a language-based blog, your content is your writing.

Are you writers? I thought you were.

Now you know the difference between information and content.

(In a stroke of admirable luck, my sys admin came home from his sushi-&-mai tai—excuse me, “work”—trip to Silicon Valley with a fascinating contact. He’d made a side-jaunt to his old haunt Santa Cruz to visit someone he met at a conference last spring and see an organic urban garden, and the guy turned out to be a professional expert in online copyright law. If that’s not too convenient.)

September 17, 2009

Stalking the classic mystery again

I’m still reading brilliant mysteries (mixed in with a few non-brilliant ones) this summer from my fabulous new Brilliant Mystery Outlet, the local thrift shop.

Here are the latest highlights:

A Case of Spirits, by Peter Lovesey, 1975: They’re billed as Sergeant Cribb adventures, but Cribb is the least of the attractions. He’s just a tight-mouthed stiff-upper-lip Brit from Scotland Yard (kind of a redundancy). However, Lovesey’s platform is absolutely riveting: in the 1970s, he wrote this series set in late 1800s London, crafting each of his mysteries around a different fad of the time. This one is crafted around seances, which were very hot stuff in the late 1800s. For the record, I love metaphysical stuff, especially if it involves ghosts, so long as I don’t have to be the person actually interacting with the ghosts (although seances are too obviously gimmicky for even me to take seriously). And Lovesey is a consummate craftsman—yanking you back and forth from suspect to suspect all the way. Now I’m reading all the Sergeant Cribb mysteries I can get my hands on.

Mrs. Pollifax and the Golden Triangle, by Dorothy Gilman, 1988: When I used to stay at my grandparents’ vacation cabin in the Sierra Nevadas with them as a teenager, I spent a lot of time reading the books in the built-in bookcase in the spare room. This, unfortunately, mostly consisted of Reader’s Digests. But there was one rather rambunctious light-hearted mystery about some wacky old woman and a bunch of happenin’ young hippies. . .much like myself in a few years, I fancied. So I read that one over and over again. I don’t remember the title, but the wacky old woman’s name was Mrs. Pollifax.

I was reluctant to read this Mrs. Pollifax now, all these years later, for fear that my adolescent taste in literature would cause me a pain too great to bear. So you can imagine my surprise and enormous pleasure to find that Gilman is, in fact, a wonderful mystery writer who just happens to be deeply conversant with various countries around the world, including the Southeast Asian countries of the Golden Triangle.

She wrote another mystery—not a Mrs. Pollifax—set in Burma called Incident at Badamya, which I read earlier this summer and also loved. Dorothy Gilman is one of my new heroes.

Appleby’s End, by Michael Innes, 1945: Innes was one of the mystery writers recommended by Raymond Chandler in a letter to a friend in Raymond Chandler Speaking, so I’ve been familiar with that name for awhile. The particular book Chandler recommended—Hamlet, Revenge!—was awfully thick wading for me when I tried reading it a few years ago, so I was a little apprehensive about this one, too. But within a few pages I was a total convert. The weird and fascinating Raven family had my undivided attention right off the bat, and when the unwitting protagonist and young Ms. Raven came upon the decapitated head of the Ravens’ cranky old ostler staring at them in the snow, I definitely jumped on for the ride. Although I figured out the solution before the end, making the finale less than noteworthy, I was still shrieking periodically, “I love this book!” throughout practically the whole thing, making it worth bringing up here.

Only When I Larf, Len Deighton, 1968: I just finished this one this morning, and I could hardly wait to wake up for it. I would’ve finished it last night except for this business about getting up early and working all day, which unfortunately interferes with my late-night reading proclivities.

Although not technically a mystery, this wonderful thriller about 1960s con artists is constructed terrifically—each chapter a first-person narrative from the point-of-view of one of the three con artists, following their adventures in a spiral that both includes each characters’ backstory of hair-raising character-building and gradually widens, until different events are being described in significantly different ways, lending great tension and intrigue to the story within the story and dragging you to an ending constructed in the classic mystery manner. The premise is gripping—these people make a living out of selling large, highly-improbably objects they don’t own to unsuspecting fools in a hurry to be parted from their money. The plot is fantastic—eventually the leader and the follower unwillingly swap places in front of their marks to launch their most audacious plan to date, also conveniently destined to be their last, as the leader is clearly getting too old for these kinds of dangerous shenanigans.

And the characters themselves are just great. Just GREAT. No matter how fed-up they get with each other (and, as the follower says candidly about the leader at the end of Chapter One, “I never upset him—really upset him I mean—when it’s an operation. Other times I upset him quite a lot.”), they are still driven periodically to leap into spontaneous improvisational theater with each other, tearing around their hotel rooms, running on the furniture, yelling in accents, and in one case winding up headfirst in the (cold) fireplace among the shovels and pokers.

Oh, and as an added bonus? It seems these types of monumental cons are, in fact, based in reality. As cited at the front of the book, even wilder cons than the ones in this story were pulled in 1966, 1965, 1963, 1962, and 1949, beginning in 1925 when someone not only successfully sold the Eiffel Tower as scrap metal, but came back a month later and did it again.

September 15, 2009

Waffling

Filed under: Being a Writer,Blogging — Victoria @ 6:43 pm
Tags: , ,

So I’m still waffling about what to do with this blog.

I don’t want my stuff lifted. It’s not Annie Dillard, but I am a professional writer, and I do work hard enough on it to value it. And I don’t want to waste any more brain cells even thinking about whether or not it will be. My life is complicated enough as it is.

I hear Paulo Coelho “secretly” leaked pieces of a novel in order to create buzz, and I say good on Paulo Coelho, but I don’t have the kind of visibility in the publishing world to make that worth my while. I also know someone is still reading this blog, in spite of the fact that all I’ve done for over a week is complain about not being able to blog anymore, and I want to thank each and every one of you crazy nuts willing to read nothing but complaining. But I don’t kid myself I’ll keep your attention with that indefinitely (although it seems to work for John Scalzi).

I’ve talked to my sys admin about turning this blog into a more conventional site for posting events, calls for submissions, links to good articles about writing, and stuff like that. Stuff I don’t care if anyone reposts because it doesn’t belong to me, anyway.

BUT I LIKE WRITING ESSAYS ABOUT FICTION.

So we’re also talking about creating a separate site where I can continue writing the essays. The catch: I’d only allow access to those folks I personally trust not to lift crap from it.

I’ve got a handful of clients and contributing commentors in mind. And anyone could send me email and apply. I’d probably have some kind of Rorschat test to put them through, proving they are not the type to lie to my face and then lift my crap anyway. Writing fiction has a lot to do with understanding psychology, and I get a bang out of that stuff. Maybe I’d insist on reading their tarot cards or something.

Or I could charge. People who lift tend to be both lazy and cheapskates. And if everyone on my RSS feed made a one-time contribution, I might be able to pay some bills! That’d be a plus.

But what do you guys think? Is there an option I’m missing here? A really nifty solution? Some level of creativity I have failed to attain?

We don’t have to decide tonight–my sys admin is out of town, anyway, eating great sushi and drinking great mai-tais in an expense-account hotel somewhere in Silicon Valley without me.

But I can’t really keep promoting this site until I figure out what I’m promoting and whom to. And I do feel like I should get off my duff and make some decisions about all this some time pretty soon.

September 12, 2009

Reading a freaking script

Josh Olson raised the roof this week with his blisteringly straight-forward rant in the New York Village Voice, I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script.

I’ve never seen one of his movies, I’ve never read any of his scripts, I’d never heard of him before I read his article, and I’m not even sure I’m spelling his name right. But I like Mr. Olson.

Do you know why?

Because he’s asking people to show some respect for a professional writer’s time and skills.

There’s a good reason to want a professional writer to read your work, and that’s that a professional is skilled. A professional knows how to spot the mistakes and the successes, knows how to do it successfully without the mistakes, and knows why and how they know. These are all great qualities to bring to a new manuscript.

And if they’re exceptionally skilled, they might even know how to impart this information in a kind way that does not crush the delicate ego of the author of the work. Yet another great quality, and not one to be taken lightly.

But how does a professional know all these things?

They LEARNED.

They weren’t granted this knowledge at birth by the good fairies. They didn’t get it as a door prize when they came down the chute. They aren’t just luckier than everyone else out there who wishes they were a professional writer.

They paid their dues and LEARNED.

Anyone who wants the benefit of a professional’s dues can also pay their dues—by investing their own time, money, energy, or years of their life to learning the same stuff. If they’re in a hurry, they even have the option of buying a short-cut! You can do that. Anyone can.

All you need is a really good editor.

Now, you guys are lucky. You already know an editor. Not only that, you know a really good editor. You know a really good editor who also happens to have a personal stake in being as kind as possible to aspiring writers—she believes in being a good person, she believes in fiction, and she’s willing to put a certain amount of her karma out there to help nice, sincere, struggling writers get accepted by agents and publishers.

You know a really good, kind, cheap editor.

Why am I so cheap if I’m so good? Because I recently lost my gravy train in the world of salaried professional editing and have had to start building freelance clientele from scratch. A year from now, I will not be this cheap. But right now I am.

Not everyone out there knows a really good, kind, cheap editor or knows how to find one, so they sometimes wind up violating common courtesy in their pursuit of a career as a writer. But just because they don’t know where to buy a short-cut doesn’t mean they can’t invest their own time and energy and years. Those are all dues, too.

So please spread the word, people: Show respect to other writers.

Pay your own dues.

September 11, 2009

Other bloggers mentioning copyright

Filed under: Being a Writer,Blogging,Career,Publication — Victoria @ 10:05 am
Tags: , ,

Daniel Scocco has written an article for Daily Blog Tips on how to avoid accidentally violating someone else’s copyright that every blogger should read: Copyright Law: 12 Dos and Don’ts.

And Tibi Puiu of the Lost Art of Blogging has an excellent article on what to do when (not if) your copyright is violated: Protect Your Blog and Counter Copyright Thefts.

Call for submissions to Genre Wars Contest

Fast-Breaking Bulletin from the Literary Lab
submitted by Michelle Davidson Argyle

We’d like to announce our 2009 Genre Wars Fiction Writing Contest!

We invite fiction writers to submit your 1 to 2,000-word short stories to us. The contest deadline is December 1, 2009 at 11:59 p.m. PST, and we plan to announce the winners on January 7, 2010, which marks the Literary Lab’s 1st anniversary.

With Genre Wars, we want to celebrate all genres of writing. So, whether you write science-fiction/fantasy, horror/crime, literary, romance, children’s literature/middle grade/young adult, or experimental, send in your work!

Write something new. Send something old. Polish something up. If you’ve never written a short story before, now’s your chance to try it out!

Prizes
20-30 special selections will be chosen for inclusion in the 1st Genre Wars Anthology. All of the profits from this print-on-demand publication will be donated to a writing/reading non-profit organization that will be announced in the future.

Six genre class winners will be selected, one from each of the genres listed above (assuming we have entries in all genres). Each of these stories will be posted on our blog, followed by an author interview. Each winner will also receive a $10 gift card to a book store of their choice.

One overall winner will be selected from the genre class winners. In addition to the prizes listed above, this writer will receive an additional $50 gift card to the book store of their choice.

Contest Guidelines
1. E-mail your 1 to 2,000-word short story to LiteraryLab@gmail.com before December 1, 2009 at 11:59 p.m. PST. Paste the work in the body of the e-mail with breaks between paragraphs (hit return twice). We will be reading all submissions blind, thanks to a kind volunteer who will send us the entries with all names removed. No attachments will be opened.

2. In your e-mail subject line type GENRE WARS ENTRY. In the body of the email include your name, the title of your work, word count, and which genre category you’d like to compete in: 1. science fiction/fantasy, 2. horror/crime, 3. literary, 4. romance, 5. children’s literature/middle grade/young adult, or 6. experimental–yes, you have to pick one.

3. Works must be previously unpublished, and we ask for the rights to post the winning stories online and/or in print in the anthology. Afterwards, you are free to include the story in your own collections or as a reprint in another anthology.

Judging
The judges for this contest will be the Literary Lab co-authors: Michelle Davidson Argyle, Scott G. F. Bailey, and Davin Malasarn. (We’ll temporarily post our own writing samples in the comments section.)

Please Spread The Word!
We’ve created a button for you to put on your blog posts, sidebars, and websites. Please help us spread the word. The more entries we get, the more exciting it will be for everybody! Remember, all proceeds of the Anthology go to charity.

Michell Davidson Argyle comments regularly on the A. Victoria Mixon blog under the name Lady Glamis
.

September 8, 2009

Tangling with the windmill

There’s literally nothing I like better than being asked my opinion. Whee, doggies! You bet.

Lady Glamis has a situation going on over on her blog. Someone’s getting some real passive-aggressive treatment from their agent.

Now, all of their questions were answered extremely intelligently by quite a good-sized crowd, so I’m not thinking there’s much new I can tell anyone about the industry. I can tell you not to expect an agent to edit your book, because they are not typically trained editors, they are trained agents, and even if they were the vast majority haven’t got that kind of time. But maybe I can help put this whole issue into some context. And I’ll do it the way I do everything else on my blog. . .by telling you guys a story.

I got my first agent in 1996 at a writer’s conference, although—I know—everyone says agents don’t get clients at those things. She did. I did. I was a newby to book publishing, too. That was great.

I had a novel in early draft (which I never did get into decent-enough condition to send out). What I had that was worth something was a book already at the publisher’s, which unfortunately my co-author and I had already signed a contract for. I didn’t want to just sign it blind. I wanted to get an agent, for heaven’s sake! But my co-author refused to involve an agent on the grounds that it might annoy our publisher’s editor. The book was riding on his name, so I went along with him and only later showed the contract to my new agent.

She said it was a travesty.

So our book came out, and I did another draft of my novel for my new agent (which still wasn’t enough). And I started writing book proposals on new nonfiction works for her to start shopping around. I didn’t know beans about book proposals, but that was okay because I’m not sure she knew a whole lot about them, either. It was a long time ago—the publishing industry has gained about 100% more writers since then, not to mention literary agents, and things like this weren’t as carved as stone as they are now. My agent had a last name that’s extremely well-known in publishing, she was chock full o’ excellent stories about famous people she had hobnobbed with, great fun to visit, and I was doing a couple of book-readings for my just-published book around the San Francisco Bay Area, getting excited about being a published author. Altogether, a pretty thrilling time.

Then I got pregnant and, in short order, sick up the wazoo with morning sickness, and I stopped doing book-readings and book proposals and writing of any kind and just lay on the couch a lot thinking about chucking my lunch. I was in love and newly-married and a published author, so that was all still wonderful. But morning sickness SUCKED.

A lot of other things went wrong right around that time, too, including black mold in the bedroom and our landlord and lawyers and whatnot—you know how drama always seems to dogpile you.

My agent and I were now spending only as much time talking as it took to deal with the fact that our publisher’s editor (the one who discouraged both me and my co-author from letting an agent see that travesty of a contract she wanted us to sign) had not 1) edited our book before publishing it, 2) read the final draft of our book before publishing it, 3) sent me galleys to proof before publishing it, with the result that 4) it came out UP TO THE EYEBALLS with typos. No kidding—to this day, if you look on the page facing page one (page zero), you find a charming quote attributed to “Irish Murdoch.” Plus my co-author inserted various cartoons on his own authority, one of them making light of pedophilia, which he inserted into one of my chapters. This was a book about children, aimed at parents and teachers and educational administrators. Apparently nobody on that project but me knew that pedophilia is not a joke to the people who care for children.

So my agent was sending faxes and making phone calls, demanding some accountability from the publisher, all to no avail. Our editor ignored her. She could afford to—she was the head of her department at that publisher. I’d met the woman and not particularly liked her, so I wasn’t surprised, but my agent and I were both pretty bent. I wrote a letter to the editor threatening legal action after I found out she’d gone to press without sending me the galleys, and it scared her, so she kind of made an effort to act a little more professional after that for about a minute, but not much. Altogether what you could consider an unpleasant experience with publishing.

The book sank. It was important, it was the first of its kind, it was positioned beautifully (it came out the week of a local industry-wide conference highlighting its exact subject matter, which we didn’t know until it was too late because the publisher’s marketing department didn’t do a lick of marketing research). The book was actually timed to coincide with a Presidential edict, if that’s not too rich for you. There was a real possibility we could have gotten a statement from the White House supporting it. But it sank.

I didn’t really care. I was on the couch thinking about chucking.

About a year and a half later, when my son was old enough to walk and I got a chance to go back to work, I finally gave up waiting for my agent to get results and went to the National Writer’s Union, which, to her credit, she’d advised me to join the minute she met me. They told me to collect all the information about her communications with the publisher and they’d help me write a letter to the top brass.

The thing is, my agent wasn’t really interested in taking my calls anymore. I’d been a mom for a year and a half. I hadn’t been a writer. I hadn’t produced any salable book proposals. I hadn’t done a rewrite on my novel. I hadn’t even been tech writing in all that time. Just a walking Need-Meet-er for the toilet-impaired. I knew she was getting tired of hearing from me.

You can pretty much read the writing on the wall.

So I continued to call and leave messages, which I knew she would not return, and to call when I thought I could trick her into picking up, which in the days before caller-ID I could. And I finally got her on the phone and told her what I was doing with the National Writer’s Union and asked her to send me all her communications with the publisher on my behalf. Thank you for everything, sorry you couldn’t get results, that damn editor, I know you did the best you could.

I knew I’d never hear from her again.

What is the moral of my story?

The publishing industry is brutal. It is made up not of a handful of supremely talented, dedicated, genius-level professionals devoting their lives to publishing the books that need to be published and helping deserving authors get their just rewards. It is made up of a GAZILLION people of all stripes and colors, many of them talented, many of them dedicated, a few of them even genius-level, but not one of them guaranteed to make anything happen with all the other gazillion of them involved. Not one. I’m telling you: not one.

It’s all hype, folks. They’re not even the ones producing it. It’s hype that writing a whole book will result in a great query letter. It’s hype that a great query letter will result in a great agent. It’s hype that a great agent will result in a great publishing deal. And it’s hype that a published book will result in a career as an author.

Where does all the hype come from?

Unfortunately. . .us.

Look around, people.

But you know what was worth all this? (Aside from the end of morning sickness). The evening after I gave my new agent my partial to read, she called me at about six-thirty p.m. and said to me, “I never call anyone after six. Ever. But I had to call you. I love this. I love your book.” And while I was standing there reeling—thinking of everything you practice saying for just this moment when a literary agent calls you up and says just exactly that—she started quoting me to myself.

She did. She read my own words out loud to me over the phone.

So I can die happy. I didn’t sell that novel. I didn’t even get the publisher’s editor who screwed us over so badly to say, “Woops, I’m sorry.” I certainly didn’t get my one published book published properly, without too many obvious typos (for heaven’s sake) or with some teeny, tiny modicum of marketing by—I don’t know—maybe the publisher’s marketing department.

But a literary agent called me up and quoted me to myself.

And that’s got to be good enough.

Mentioning copyright

Filed under: Being a Writer,Career — Victoria @ 11:06 am
Tags: , ,

Where’d they go?

The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed my blog posts have disappeared—all but the latest and those containing your own work.

How many of you are familiar with a thing called copyright?

If you want to be writers, you’d better be.

Wow, I had about six golden months of blogging my little heart out, waxing eloquent on anything I wanted, safe in the knowledge that the only people reading it were my husband and two writer friends. It was wonderful! Then I got some exposure among the mega-numbers, and suddenly I had readers. And you know what? It was even more wonderful! Cool people with smart brains saying nice things! Appreciation is such an amazing invention!

Then yesterday I discovered something I’d been hoping wouldn’t happen—someone out there didn’t just quote me or refer to me or throw up a link recommending me. Someone lifted an entire post and published it on their own site. Without so much as dropping me a line.

Friends, there’s this little social and legal convention called ASKING FIRST.

Remember kindergarten? Remember the sandbox? Remember seeing someone else playing with a really cool toy they’d brought from home and having a great idea about how to use it and wanting to just snatch it and show everyone? Remember the teacher kindly but firmly reminding you: “We don’t take things from others without asking”? And it wasn’t enough to just slip in an announcement, “I’m going to take that.” You had to actually ASK.

And abide by the answer! <—important

Now, I know as well as you do that social conventions on the Internet are in great turmoil these days, as blogs become as common as conversations and piracy issues are hammered out in full view of everyone. I also know—better than many, I’m guessing—how easy it is to have a lapse in common sense and inadvertently put myself in the position of having to apologize for some stupid blunder. So I’m willing to cut a certain amount of slack.

But social conventions are not the same thing as legal conventions. And copyright covers everything anyone writes. It’s theirs. As it should be.

Folks, I work hard on these blog posts. I put thirty years’ experience and education and writing skill into them, and I do it so all of you out there standing where I stood thirty years ago can get that leg up I so desperately needed then. I like to be a nice person—I really do. It makes me feel superior to mean people.

I also do it to promote my own (laughably-cheap) services. I have to make a living, like everyone else.

Please don’t take my hard work and use it to promote your own site without even asking. That’s not nice. And it’s kind of a slap in the face to someone who’s putting in a lot of free work for your benefit, whether you ever hire me or not.

You may be giddy over the virtual anarchy of this booming technology. But anarchy is no more or less than society based entirely on good manners.

Remember your manners.

ASK FIRST.

If you don’t, you’re violating legal copyright and opening yourself up to a lawsuit. And that works for all written material, writers.

August 31, 2009

Steam rose from the surface—

Filed under: Editing Services,Monthly Specials — Victoria @ 1:07 pm
Tags: ,

Steam rose from the surface of Gina’s latte.

“What’s wrong?” I asked. “Your face. You look—”

“I was jogging. I ran here.” Gina dumped a packet of sugar into her cup
.
“Not that. You look a little—spent.”

“I am spent. I’m single-parenting while Todd’s out of town.”

“He’s still out of town? It’s going on, what, two weeks?”

Gina took a sip of her coffee. “He’s not coming back.”

I covered my mouth with my hand and waited for her to say something, but she was silent.

“Where is he now?”

She looked up. “In San Jose. That’s where his brother lives—”

“And his mistress?”

She snorted. “If only it were his mistress.”

“You don’t mean—”

“I mean, he has a mister.”
—Amy Carey

Developmental Edit

This is great—it throws us back and forth between stress, out-of-town husband, lover, and switch in sexual orientation so fast it’s like a tennis match!

Tense? <em>check
Specific? <em>check
Raises a question? check What’s Gina going to do about being abandoned by her husband?
Drop-kicks us off the end? check He’s turned gay?

What does this paragraph tell us about the book we’re starting? A female character named Gina is stressed out because she’s been left with one or more children by a husband who’s turned out to be gay. The first-person protagonist is shocked at the news.

Do I want to follow this character through a whole novel? I don’t know much about Gina except her situation, but her situation is GRIPPING. So, yes, I’m going to turn the page!

Genre? Contemporary fiction, unless something else crops up to place it in a more specific genre.

Do we need to know who the character is, how they got here, where they were before? We know Gina’s married with kids and has a friend to confide in. That’s enough!

Does this paragraph drop us right smack in a specific moment in this character’s story? Point-blank. We get the news as the protagonist gets the news, and we’re just as shocked as they are. Not bad for no backstory.

So let’s talk about the structure of it. This is almost entirely dialog. It’s a technique that’s served writers like Amistead Maupin well—crisp, clean, fast-paced, it leapfrogs right over such concerns as whether or not you’re using too much exposition or description. It also seems well-suited to both the light, witty tone and surprise-packed story. I’d trim maybe a word here or there, but other than that we’re fully engaged by the time we’re sprung off that last word like a spring bug. Excellent work!

Copy & Line Edit

Steam rose from the surface of Gina’s latte.

“What’s wrong?” I asked. “Your face—”

“I jogged here.” Gina dumped a packet of sugar into her cup
.
“Not that. You look a little—spent.”

“I am spent. I’m single-parenting while Todd’s out of town.”

“It’s going on, what, two weeks?”

Gina took a sip. “He’s not coming back.”

I covered my mouth and waited, but she was silent.

“Where is he?”

She looked up. “In San Jose. Where his brother lives—”

“And his mistress?”

She snorted. “If only.”

“You don’t mean—”

“He has a mister.”

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