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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Editing Forum

The editing forum, ER for Writers, was led by Jerry Gross. I loved this guy. He was funny, sharp and spoke with authority.

For this post, I'm going to cover my notes primarily, so much of this will be short and sweet. Mr. Gross spoke from the experience he's had in 50 years of editing. This guy probably forgot more than I'll ever know.

• Make sure to give your hero (heroine) a certain vulnerability. For example: Indiana Jones had his snake phobia.

• Don't overdo on the plot. It should follow the formula: action = reaction. This was my major faux pas on my first stab at a novel. I'm much more aware of it now and try to simplify it to it's core problem.

Mr. Gross gave the example of a disintegrating marriage. Don't go into a lot of back story telling the reader about a crummy marriage. Show us a quarrel that reinforces the image of a failing marriage.

• Newbies often create a character like a police report. Character building should be subtle and woven within the narrative.

• Stephen King was quoted about adverbs. He said: Adverbs don't strengthen, but weaken a sentence. How true. This was one of the latest things I've learned this past year and I've noticed a big improvement when I edited out a lot of those "ly" words.

• Using Said: This is advice I hear from a lot of editors. There is nothing wrong with using "said" as a dialog tag. It is invisible. Whenever possible, use body tags as well. For example: Darren tapped on his watch. "How much longer?"

• Remember to change the rhythm of your sentences to keep it from being monotonous.

• Mr. Gross had a whole segment on sex. His best advice was to get the reader squarely into the heads of both people. (guess that would change if you had a menage a trois.)

He remarked on a story he edited where the author described her character's sex scenes almost exactly alike with two men who were two widely different ages. Sex should be appropriate (and individual) to each character.

Sex should not be perfect. (heh…when is it ever?)

Sex should evolve from the story line and tell you more about the relationship between these two people.

• Italics: Don't put extraordinarily long passages in italics. --I can relate to this. I remember critting someone who had nearly whole chapters in italics since it was a dream or some flashback. It was terribly intrusive and I ended up skimming over much of it. God bless editors. They see more garbage than I will ever put up with.

Marketing: One of the things Mr. Gross said that struck me profoundly was that the industry is no longer led by editors, but by marketing people. I had always suspected this, but somehow it sounded more chilling coming from the horse's mouth (so to speak).

Marketing is interested in the bottom line. Will it make money? Considering so many people's livelihoods may be tied to a single book, it's understandable that publishing houses will align themselves to the decisions made by the marketing department over the editorial department.

Is that right or wrong? I think the purists will cry at the inequity of it all, claiming true art is lost in pursuit of the dollar, but I don't think that's a fair assessment. Good story telling still rises to the top. The reading public isn't going to spend money on something that doesn't appeal. And if that author doesn't create a following, it’s likely he won't have a second book. It's a very unsteady tightrope, one with no gray areas. If you want to get in the game, you have to create something the public wants.

Mr. Gross was a wealth of information and had a standing room only crowd. He was also quite charming and easy to listen to. A very good forum.

Tomorrow: Internet Marketing


Mike Keyton said...

Really useful posts. Thank you Maria.

Maria Zannini said...

More to come...