This week's blog prompt concerns prologues: are they helpful or hurtful? Personally, I think they're overused, mostly by authors who ought to know better and don't do a very good job of incorporating them into the story. Such authors use prologues to dump a wheelbarrow load of backstory because they lack the skill to weave in the backstory without an information dump.
Yep, I can be harsh.
That said, I used a prologue in a book once. Once. (Remember Danny Vermin in the movie Johnny Dangerously?) I used a prologue in The Diamond Gate, because the book picks up where a lesser known fairy tale ends and I thought that readers ought to have a glimmer of that fairy tale before plunging into the story. I don't know whether the prologue did the job I wanted it to do. I think I've sold about half a dozen copies of the book and no one ever left a review. The utter lack of feedback as well as sales basically deserves an insouciant shrug of dismissal of yet one more literary failure chalked up to the growing mountain of experience.
Most prologues are completely unmemorable. In fact, the only prologues I can recall are those in David Eddings' Belgariad series which I read when they were first published way back in the 1980s, you know, the dark ages before the internet. Honestly, though, I don't know whether I recall them because they were good. Today's critics of fantasy disparage Eddings' work, although I always enjoyed the sardonic humor of his books. Of course, they don't think too much of Terry Brooks' Shannara series either. No matter, I liked them.
My basic thought regarding prologues is that if your book needs one, then make it the first chapter. Or do a better job of plotting out the story. The reader should not need to read the prologue to understand the story.
Of course, I feel the same about epilogues, too.
I came across this guy, Dana Derricks, through a recommendation by someone whose business savvy I admire and trust. I was flabbergasted and disappointed.
For those who don't know this guy, Dana Derricks is an author who, according to him, has been featured on Forbes, Amazon, and a bunch of other authoritative sites as the epitome of authorial success. He claims to be able to teach anyone how to write and produce an absolutely wonderful book within a week.
He hosts workshops and coaches people in his proprietary method. OK, so perhaps you can write a book in a week. Will it be any good? (By the way, I couldn't find his books listed on Amazon, the 800 lb. gorilla of publishing.)
Yep, one week. Let's break this down. If you work 8 hours for five days--40 hours--on your manuscript doing nothing but producing content and you manage to produce 1,000 words of content per hour, you'll have 40,000 words by the end of that week. Will that content be any good? Research shows that the average writer needs 3 hours and 20 minutes to draft, edit, revise, and polish 1,000 words of content.
According to Derricks, one's ability to write simply doesn't matter. He declares authors don't need ghostwriters or editors, because all those folks do is dilute your message and drain your bank account. Apparently, it doesn't matter whether your book is filled with language use errors of if it's poorly written. Ghostwriters and editors are evil scammers whose main goal in life is to perpetuate the myth of their indispensability and soak thousands of dollars from their clients.
You don't need 'em, folks. Right?
I could post some unedited excerpts of the manuscripts that cross my desk to illustrate, but that wouldn't be ethical.
I cannot overstate my disgust.
What do you do if you're not good at something? You hire someone who is good at that something, because that competence has value. I could state that no one needs a plumber. You can learn to fix your own leaky pipes. You don't need an automotive mechanic to diagnose and correct that strange knock-knock-whir-squealing noise in your engine. Why bother with a doctor? Or a photographer? Or a landscaper? Or a horse trainer? If you're not good at writing, then you hire a ghostwriter. If you're good at writing (or even if you aren't and have already written something), then you hire an editor to refine and improve your work.
So, rather than merely rail about how every author needs an editor, here's one example I will post. I wrote this untitled snippet as part of an online interview for a ghostwriting position. I had one hour to produce original content in the paranormal romance genre. Specifications: write in the present tense, first person point of view for both the male and female protagonists, 500 words each. Follow the link to see what I came up with. It's not been altered in any way since I threw it together: what you see is raw fiction straight from mind to keyboard produced at a potential client's demand.
The objective of the test was to hook the reader, hold the reader's interest, and make the reader want to read more. Only you can decide whether I succeeded. Regardless, it needs editing.
I flatter myself as being pretty good at what I do and believe that competence has value.