Can I write that?
Perusing various writing groups nearly every day, I come across a lot of "newbie" writers who ask whether they are allowed to write certain things. I'm tempted to respond like an English teacher: "I don't know, can you?"
Other than the ongoing problem of confusing "can" with "may," the answer is simple: yes. Yes, you may write whatever your heart desires. Yes, you may write what you need or want to express yourself. Yes.
I write romantic fiction. Some people have seen fit to inform me they do not read fiction. One stated that he read the truth. There's no good response to that. I could have explained that Jesus used parables (stories) to impart truth, but that the stories He told were not, in essence, factual. Truth does not alway mean fact. Unfortunately, such explanations don't go over well. Anyway, the folks who decline the pleasure of reading fiction aren't interested in what I write and aren't my customers.
That's fine. I don't feel the need to justify my literary preferences in reading or writing to make them happy. They have no obligation to justify theirs to me. We vote with our wallets. He who sells the most books wins.
I've spoken with even more people who tell me they don't read romance. It's trashy. It's unrealistic. It's ... insert whatever pejorative you want. I've pointed out to some that every fiction genre has romance. The greatest literature in the world encompasses romance. I'm not referring to romance as the big, commercial genre, but romance as the story of a developing romantic interest. The big difference between those other books and romance is that romance (as a genre) focuses on the developing romantic relationship.
Consider The Odyssey. It has Jason doing his best to return home to his beloved wife, Penelope, despite indulging in a few affaris along the way. What about Shakespeare? It's hard to find one of his plays that doesn't involve romance, especially when they end in tragedy. Do you like mystery? Detective novels? Robert B. Parker's Spenser series weaves in the romance between Spenser and Susan. How about science fiction? You'll find plenty of romantic subplots there, too. Urban fantasy and super hero stories? Check out the romance between Peter Parker and Mary Jane, or Peter Parker and Felicia.
Even villains get romance. In the GI Joe movies and the old cartoons, Destro and the Baroness can't keep their hands off one another. Okay, that's probably more lust than love, but still ...
Write what you want and understand that writing what you want isn't the same as writing to market. Writing to market is writing to cater to the expectations of the genre's devoted readers. This entails using the genre's familiar tropes, character archetypes, and standard plot devices. Writing to market follows the genre's formula.
Consider the cozy mystery. The progatonist, usually a quirky personality, introduces himself or herself. The protagonist stumbles upon a dead body and somehow becomes embroiled in solving the whodunit. After clues, a few red herrings, some conflict with local law enforcement and perhaps a neighborhood influencer, and a spot of danger to ramp up the tension, the truth comes out, the crime is solved, and the protagonist survives a little worse for wear to go on and solve the next crime.
Writing to market or formulaic writing need not be castigated as poor storytelling. Truth be told, there really aren't any new or original plots. They've all been done before. What makes a tired old plot fresh is how the author treats it. An author's spin on the old plot introduces new aspects, interesting personalities, and fresh details. There's a lot to be said for writing to market, because readers like to know what they're getting when they buy your book.
So, write what you want. That's not to say that someone will want to read what you write. There's no guarantee that what you write won't offend others: it probably will, especially these days when people are looking for triggers to offend them. This, I think, is what will separate the dilettantes from the diehards: those who continue to write despite the pearl-clutching exclamations of offense. If you can't handle the critics whose delicate sensibilities you offend, you won't last long as a storyteller.
Just make sure that, regardless of what you write, you pursue excellence.
#writinglife #authors #genre #henhousepublishing #hollybargobooks
Editors are not a writer's enemy.
It's dismaying to see post after post by writers either eschewing professional editing or who accuse editors as greedy thieves. Yes, there are some bad actors out there. Every profession has its proverberial bad apples.
The editor is the writer's best friend. No one cares as much as about your book's success as you do, but the editor comes a close second. Your success is his or her success: an editor wants your book to hit those bestseller lists, to gather accolades, to be optioned for movie rights. Your editor wants all that and more for you, which is why the editor's main focus is serving the best intersts of the book.
Serving the book's best interest means that the editor is not being paid to flatter you. The editor's job boils down to two tasks: pointing out the flaws and helping you fix the flaws. Telling you what you did well is icing on the cake.
Look, I get it. I'm an author, too. We all love praise. We want that dopamine hit when someone says he likes our books or when a reader recommends the book to someone else. We crave those positive reviews that persuade prospective readers to buy our books.
We need to remember that the editor's sometimes stinging comments are not directed at the writer. The editor focuses on the work. The editor may lack tact and may be stingy with compliments, but his or her insight points out the issues we miss and helps us correct the flaws. The general public reading and reviewing our books won't be so kind.
So, how do you distinquish between a good editor and a bad one?
Some freelance platforms cater to the substandard, both in terms of clients and vendors. Cheapskate clients who devalue the services they want to hire often impose unreasonable expectations for paltry pay. Good editors won't work for those clients, because they know their own value and don't allow other clients to devalue them. Before you bemoan the expense of a professional editor, educate yourself with regard to industry standard rates. The Editorial Freelancers Association publishes a good guideline showing you what you can expect to pay for service. It's all right to be frugal. The best way to optimize the value of professional editing is to be rigorous and ruthless in self-editing your work before you hand it to an editor.
Some writers fear an editor will steal their work. Let's face it, once your book is published, it will be stolen. You can't stop it. Console yourself with the knowledge that the bad characters who steal your hard work wouldn't pay for the privilege of reading it anyway. You should also be aware that fewer than 10% of authors earn more than $1,000 in royalties annually. It's a small percentage who actually earn enough to live on the income their books generate. No editor worth his or her salt is going to steal your manuscript in the hope that it will make him or her a lot of money in royalties. Also, many editors—like yours truly—are also authors. They have more than enough of their own ideas to develop and don't need to steal your stories.
Many writers fear that an editor will ruin their literary masterpieces. A good editor won't overwrite your voice; a good editor refines your voice and keeps your style. This effort may involve tightening overwritten (i.e., flabby) content, converting passive voice to active voice, and limiting adverbs and adjectives. The upshot here is that an editor makes your writing better.
Finding a competent editor entails a bit of research. Referrals and word of mouth is a good way to find a good editor. Higher caliber sites like Reedsy, the EFA, Author's Guild, ACES, and LinkedIn increase your chances of finding a good editor. Be prepared to spend money, because professional service commands commensurate compensation.
Once you've narrowed your selection of potential editors, ask for a free sample edit. With an excerpt of your manuscrtipt not exceeding 1,000 words, and editor can show you how he or she will treat your manuscript. If the editor's work meets or exceeds your expectations, then it's a good sign that's the editor you want. By the way, a sample edit might be offered for free or might be offered at a discounted rate.
Check the editor's references and/or client testimonials. If the editor has a LinkedIn profile, check that out. Same goes for a website, Facebook page, etc. Editors with a viable social media presence are real people who do real work.
Good editing is invisible. When you're reading a book and you don't notice glitches and other problems in the content, you know it's been professionally edited. Poor editing or lack of editing is always noticeable, and that's not the kind of notice an author wants.
An editor is an author's best friend. Keep your editor close.