As a new writer to the genre, an editor recently commented "your first chapter is beginning to sound like a travelogue." I thought once I set the scene, I needed to spend some time describing the area so the reader could get a feel for it. Michael McGarrity spends a bit of time on describing Santa Fe and Albuquerque, and Sue Grafton not only describes the places she's driving by on the highway, but tells you what turnoff she takes. Is there a happy medium for this?

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Yes, I remember how envious I was when the school newspaper extolled your virtues.
Thanks so much for the advice. I will do the drill.
Hmmm, but no Edgar or Thriller or Dagger ;-)
The bottom line is: Listen to the person who's writing the cheques.
Every editor has their own ideas of what is right and wrong with a story, and very few editors ever agree with each other. When one of my novels was being rejected and I was struggling with how to fix it, I would look at the rejection slips and read "not dark enough" followed by the next rejection which read "too dark" and this would continue back and forth with other details.
When the novel was accepted, the first thing the editor said was "cut 15,000 words." Another editor may have just as easily told me to flesh things out, but this editor was putting the publisher's money on the line to get my book into stores, so cut 15,000 words it was.
You may get an editor who loves lots of scenery, but you may get one who feels you've gone overboard. So it's best to write the best story you can and then listen to the feedback from the editor who's writing the cheques.
Of course you try to make the changes they want once they've come through with the contract, but have you looked at editors lately? Most look like highschool seniors. (Though I daresay they have a B.A.)
B.A. doesn't mean anything. Those are as easy to get as a high school diploma.
I'm currently reading Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith. It's a debut novel, written in third-person, with shifting POVs. I couldn't begin to tell you what the main character looks like. Or his wife. Or their apartment...

It's pure storytelling, with very little straight-up description, and it's brilliant, IMO.
This is exactly what I'm talking about. I am probably more of a storyteller than I am anything else, so it's shocking my system to struggle with writing it differently. I am paying an editor to go through the manuscript, but these were his first off-the-cuff impressions initially. Maybe when he gets into it the meat will be tastier. Who knows. I will definitely pick that book up and take a look.

The editor did say he believes first-time writers are held to a different set of rules than seasoned writers, and the manuscript has to meet a certain criteria before it is accepted.
It is true that the first manuscript submitted must be polished because many editors are looking for reasons to reject. On the other hand, seasoned writers have had practice and don't make the mistakes novices make.
Marie--I think you're dead-on with your remark about double-standards (and expectations) when it comes to new writers. You look at some of the 'biggie' names who put out books that are very disappointing to read and you think to yourself 'sold by name-recognition only.'
And if the big-name author has made lots of money for the publisher already, they feel obligated. But let's face it, the fans will buy anything.
Yes, I was surprised when the editor, (who's very well known in the field) said that to me. That was my argument exactly, that some of McGarrity's later books were not page turners, but I imagine it's pretty difficult to reach for the brass ring once you've had a NY Times bestseller (although many of these writers can do it again and again.) Most of their covers say "NY Times bestselling Author" and they should add "who didn't reach the standards this time." The 2006 Hillerman award winner, whose name has already escaped me, won with "The Substitute Child." It was gag-reflex awful. It reminded me of someone taking a book on New Mexican traditions and seeing how many she could use. It's one thing to say the grandmother was praying the rosary, but a little much when the writer describes each of the seven sorrows and how this woman herself is suffering through the agony Christ suffered. Gag me.
I admire a person who exudes great confidence in himself!


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