Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Editor Follow-Up

Sorry for the late post. I usually post the night before to accommodate you early East Coast risers, but was apparently taking a nap. When I finally could post this in the morning, I see that crazy took everything I tried to do last night, which supposedly got lost in cyberspace, and posted it after all. Sheesh. I deleted all the wrong posts. However, I don't know if comments were left for any of them. If so, they're now gone. Sigh. Dontcha just luuuuv technology?

Added to our BG winners announced yesterday, congratulations also to Tamara Cooper, who won second place in the Noble Theme Contemporary Romance. Waytago, Tamara!

Okay. Based on comments from yesterday, we’ll tackle editor follow-up first, then go on to subplots. I have never taught on subplots, but I have written plenty of them. I have no idea how I do what I do with subplots. I suppose I’d better find out.

But for now—editors. You came away from an appointment high as a kite. The editor requested to see your work. May be a partial, may be a complete manuscript. You only had 15 minutes with the guy/gal, but something about your pitch worked.

Now what?

I doubt anything I say here will be rocket science. Just a few cautionary reminders.

1. Think of this primarily as a learning experience. It will teach you to write because you have to, not just because you want to. It will teach you to hone your skills, knowing an editor’s waiting to tear them apart. It will teach you not to obsess.

2. The editor will be inundated after the conference. He has to return to his regular duties, plus handle all the new manuscripts he’s just asked to see. So you really don’t have to send your stuff tomorrow. On the other hand . . .

3. As my agent Jane Jordan Browne used to say, “Jump when the fire’s hot.” An editor interested in a certain manuscript and genre now may not be as interested many months from now. That particular slot may be filled. The direction of the house might change. The editor might become an agent. Who knows? At any rate, this is not the time to dally with your writing.

4. How long do you need to get your manuscript in shape? Figure out what needs to be done, then estimate time needed. How much can you do each day? Set yourself a sensible daily goal. Fulfillment of daily goal will mean the manuscript is done on X date. Make that your firm deadline. Stick to it. Life will happen. Your brain will freeze. You’ll tell yourself you can never make this deadline. Welcome to the reality of writing fiction. Make it anyway.

5. Can you identify weaknesses in your manuscript? If so, seek teaching on those issues. Through this blog, through ACFW online course archives, through other writing blogs, through various conference CDs, you should be able to find teaching on just about any subject. Better to take this time and understand a technique than to start writing blindly. Oops. This will give you less time to make your set deadline. Does it need adjusting? Try to stick to it if possible. This will mean more daily work for you. Welcome to the reality of writing fiction.

6. Work hardest on your beginning. If you only pitched to the editor, she’s read nothing of the story yet. If your beginning’s not divine, you will lose her in the very first paragraph. Make her want to turn that page. This means no backstory at the beginning. Hear my words. No backstory. We talked about backstory in the ACFW conference professional class on the second day. I assume this would be the third tape of the class, and some of the fourth. You might want to buy them. I think the CDs are $6.95 apiece. I came away without my piece of paper for the company that did our tapings. Somebody please post the Web site for buying CDs. (The entire professional class includes four CDs.)

7. Details. Make sure you follow the house’s guidelines for manuscript set-up. This probably wasn’t discussed in your editor session, since there was so little time. Check these guidelines in Sally Stuart’s Christian Writers Market Guide, or check out the publishing house’s Web site. You never know the odd things they might want. I was surprised in my ACFW conference class to see manuscript excerpts with underlining instead of italics. I’ve never used underlining, and in fact had to ask, “What’s this all about?” But with this one publisher—that’s what they wanted. I never would have guessed.

8. Mark your submission, whether e-mailed or snail-mailed, with "Requested Material." A couple months from now the editor isn't going to immediately remember your name. You need to distinguish your package from all the other unsolicited stuff he/she is receiving. You might also add a dash and the name of the conference.

9. Remember this blog’s NES (Never-Ending Saga) about my journey to publication? You’re on your own journey. This may be a major step. It may turn out to be a small one, even a sidetrack. In the words of Karen Ball, “It’s all gooood.” God’s got His hands on you. Pray your way through writing each day. Pray for your craft, pray for your attitude, pray against the voices in your head that will tell you you’re not good enough. In the words of Nike, “Just do it.”

Are there particular questions on this issue? If so, fire away.

If you didn’t come away from an editor with a request—this is not the end of the world. God has other plans for you. Hold on to that promise. Keep writing and keep praying. I’m cheering you on.


Stuart said...

Ah good advice & motivation Brandilyn. I got two requests at the conference, so I'll be slamming hard to get my manuscript into shape. Thankfully it is finished so I just need to do an editing pass, write my glossary & some other little tidbits.

Always have a horrible time at choosing deadlines though :) I almost never give myself enough time. I'll have to think hard on that part.

Jennifer Tiszai said...

You can get the CDs/MP3s from

My crit partner and I went in on buying the whole conference. It really is a bargin for all the wonderful info you get. I'm looking forward to hearing your class, Brandilyn.

I really liked your comment about backstory, or rather the lack of it, at the beginning. I see that occassionally in things I crit and it really does pull you out of the story. I think Donald Maass said if you really need the backstory, stick it in chapter 15. A little tongue-in-cheek but a great idea.

Gina said...

I really need to get the cd on backstory. I'm a little confused as to how to set up my villian's motivation without a thought or a one liner referring to the past. Is that considered backstory? For those of us who couldn't make your class, can you comment on this briefly!

Karen Wevick said...

Thanks Brandilyn, I'm looking forward to hearing about subplots. It was good meeting you again at the conference, and you probably have little or no rememberance of who I am, but I will let NO chocolate cake be removed from a MC's place before its time.
God Bless

Lynette Sowell said...

Great to hear from you. I appreciated the tips. I'm "striking" this week with my followup notes (at least give the poor editor time enough to go through his e-mails). I've heard from several sources that I need to "kick it up a notch" with my work (quotes intended--they actually said this), even in a judge's notes from the NT contest. Winning's not--quite--everything. :)
~~Thanks again.
--on her own neverending saga...

Gina Holmes said...

Thanks Brandilyn, I've got a question. The response to my novels was overwhelming. I wrote each editor a short e-mail thanking them for their time and being at the conference and said my agent would be following up "with interested editors". My question: is it wrong to let editorial houses know there's other houses interested? Thanks!

Domino said...

About the whole "no backstory" comment: I've grasped the idea. I now must make chapter one work without any backstory. I've also got to put motivation in there for my heroine's attitude to be believable. I'll figure it out somehow.

And yes, I did need the cheering on. Thanks! I was asked to send some pages, but I have to work on chapter one first. I can do it. I can do it - while I'm running from Rita!

Wayne said...

Great insights, Brandilyn. Thanks for taking the time to go into such detail for us.

Pammer said...

Thanks for the wisdom. Hmmm, I apologize in advance for any "invented" spelling. I needed to know the things you said. I am anxiously awaiting my MP3s from the conference so I can catch all the good stuff I missed because alas, there is only one of me. :0) I really appreciate you taking the time out of your schedule to do this for us. Hugs.