firstwriter.com – Thursday October 3, 2019
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~ Robin Wade; literary agent at the Wade & Doherty Literary Agency Ltd, and long-term firstwriter.com subscriber
The print and ebook versions are both available to buy now at https://www.jpandadyson.com/books/writers_handbook.php.
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By G. Miki Hayden
Instructor at Writer's Digest University online and private writing coach
firstwriter.com – Saturday September 28, 2019
GMH: What common style mistake bugs you the most?
Phyllis Grann, the first woman CEO of a major publishing firm: The use of unnecessary words.
Writers being paid by the word say that instead of “bang,” they might write “bang, bang, bang” for gunshots. That’s really a joke—sort of. While often the length of a story or article is fixed by guidelines and a flat fee is paid, sometimes writers do get paid by the word, even today. But any writer imagining that adding unnecessary words to a piece is a good idea isn’t the writer who is going to sell the story or article. And that’s the long of way of saying that the best writing is economical writing. How many words should the story or article be? As many as telling the story takes, but not a single word more.
Instead of being paid a penny a word, five cents a word, or a dollar a word—and all these are legitimate current pay scales, to be sure—imagine that you will have to pay for every word you put on the page. Use what you need, but be a little bit parsimonious in your word use. Like every good householder or starving artist, consider your budget.
Keep in mind, too, that most publishers aren’t looking for a first book that runs 160,000 words, because they have to account for printing costs, paper prices, and the storage charge for maintaining inventory in a warehouse somewhere. Thus the words allotted to a just-hatched author won’t be unlimited.
And if you’re seeking to market pieces to a magazine or newspaper, start on the abbreviated side in that realm as well. Try placing a letter to the editor, then sell small fillers until the editors know your name and see that you have some command of the language along with a few ideas worth setting into type.
As for your short story lengths, make your short fiction reasonably short. An editor trying to fill a magazine with a variety of pieces for an issue isn’t really likely to buy a 10,000 word story—again, especially from an author whose name isn’t a draw.
So when counting words in a work, less may actually be more, but, really, use all the words that you need in order to write the piece optimally. As a matter of style, though, ditch the words not required to express the ideas, and be properly clear and rhythmical while you’re at it.
Here are some examples:
Extra words: But I wanted to get an idea of the lay of the land.
Trimmed: But I wanted to get the lay of the land.
As you write, as well as when you edit your own writing, you need to stay alert for words that aren’t required and to cull them. This is still another automatic mental habit you want to form as a writer.
Extra words: “We are waiting for only two more people at our table, so why don't you have a seat?”
Trimmed: “We’re waiting for only two more, so please join us.”
Express the idea. And when writing fiction, express the idea as the character would. But rarely will you need to go on at great length.
Extra words: His headlights reflecting off the wet pavement made it difficult to spot all the potholes, and his unmarked department vehicle bounced uncomfortably along.
Trimmed: His unmarked vehicle bounced along the wet blacktop, making him curse.
One thing we want to think about when writing is how much description a bit of business actually deserves. How important, for instance, is the setting? How important are the details? If the setting and details aren’t important, then don’t include a lot of extras. We’re living in an age of impatient readers. Cut back on description; sketch in background material.
On the other hand, you might want to include very specific details, such as the name of a street or an area of the city, even the make of the car. Details help to fill in the picture and to add color, while not actually taking that many words. Do we think the writer who created the above knows Detroit? No. Specific details will make our readers trust us more.
Pithy but with detail: His unmarked DPD vehicle bounced over the wet blacktop alongside Kronk Recreation Center, making him curse.
Where’s the Beef?
In addition to being efficient in wording, let’s try packing both our articles and our fiction with interesting information. If you don’t have that, even in fiction, you don’t have anything. You have air. If you give us only air (a lot of nothing), at least give us blank pages where we can rest our eyes. Don’t bother us with the dinning nuisance of more words in an overly wordy universe.
Too gabby: I’m Finally Out of School—Now What? is designed to provide down-to-earth, helpful advice as you begin this next phase of your life. Many of the subjects we’ll cover are things most people out in the world take for granted, but you might not yet have encountered the reality of having to deal with such everyday circumstances.
Cut to the chase: I’m Finally Out of School—Now What? will cover many aspects of everyday life that people living on their own for the first time will need to understand.
The best writing is forceful and direct, but often writers are so eager to pinpoint an exact concept—90 percent of this, but 10 percent of that—that they water down the sentence by equivocating.
Wishy washy: He had seemingly disappeared into thin air.
Direct: He had disappeared into thin air.
The reader knows he didn’t actually disappear into thin air, but that something untoward probably happened to him. Yes, I just equivocated by the use of the word “probably,” and that’s because he might have engineered his own disappearance. I’m not entirely against equivocation, you see, but I want to bring the consideration to mind.
Often we use extra words to waffle on one point or another. We might ask ourselves if we really should introduce that wiggle room for a statement, diminishing the strength of the idea and the sentence itself.
G. Miki Hayden is the author of the award-winning guide for mystery writers, Writing the Mystery: A Start-to-Finish Guide for Both Novice and Professional, available now from JP&A Dyson.
"Whatever your habitual errors are, punctuation, writing style, or even not understanding what the agents/editors are looking for, if you'd like to correct your flaws, take a class with me at Writer's Digest: https://www.writersonlineworkshops.com/. Or for some less-expensive guidance, you might want to download The Naked Writer for your Kindle at Amazon. Yes, I work with clients privately. Find me on Facebook."
G. Miki Hayden always has a new class starting at Writer's Digest. The feedback she gives is personal, thorough, and actionable.
Writers' Handbook 2021 - Out Now!
Some of this month's news for writers from around the web.
independent.co.uk – Friday October 18, 2019
The building will now become an archive of King's work, where visits will be possible by appointment, and host up to five writers at a time. The family are unlikely to be home while the writers' residencies are ongoing.
City councillor Ben Sprague told Rolling Stone: "The King family has been wonderful to the city of Bangor over time and have donated literally millions of dollars to various causes in the community.
thebookseller.com – Thursday October 17, 2019
Eurospan has acquired academic and educational sales agency Transatlantic Publishers Group for an undisclosed sum.
TGP offers US specialist academic and technical presses sales and marketing services in Europe and the Middle East. The agency was founded in 2002 and current clients include American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), Industrial Press, SAP Press and Kendall-Hunt Publishing.
Transatlantic m.d. Mark Chaloner will be stepping down from his post after a brief handover period. TPG will continue to use Orca Book Services for warehousing and fulfillment services in place of Eurospan’s sister distribution company Turpin Books.
thebookseller.com – Thursday October 17, 2019
Toby Mundy is to head up the new British arm of the US-based Aevitas Creative Management (ACM), with industry veterans Trevor Dolby and Natalie Jerome among the agents joining him.
Mundy will merge his Toby Mundy Associates (TMA), the agency he launched in 2014, with the newly-minted ACM UK and act as the British outpost’s chairman and c.e.o.
Mundy said he loved running TMA, but “by being part of something larger, we will be able to offer our clients more”. He added: “I think long-term success in this industry comes from great people working in a great culture. The creative, collaborative, and collegial atmosphere at ACM has been foundational to its success and I believe that by working with the outstanding team in the US, we can build something similar here.”
|Click here for the rest of this month's news >|
A selection of the new listings added to firstwriter.com this month.
firstwriter.com – Monday October 7, 2019
Publishes: Poetry; Reviews;
Areas include: Literature;
Preferred styles: Literary
Publishes poems and reviews of recent poetry collections. Submit via online submission system.
firstwriter.com – Wednesday October 16, 2019
Areas include: Humour; Short Stories;
Preferred styles: Literary
Publishes novels and short story collections between 45,000 and 100,000 words. Only accepts work from writers who have not yet published a book of literary fiction. Particularly looking for female and LGBTQ voices. Submit via online submission system. $7.13 fee per submission.
firstwriter.com – Wednesday October 16, 2019
Agent at Folio Literary Literary Management, handling fiction and nonfiction for adults, children, and young adults. Send query by email with writing sample.
|Click here for more of this month's new listings >|
Some of this month's articles for writers from around the web.
vulture.com – Tuesday October 15, 2019
What makes reading a good mystery so satisfying? A writer’s hard work. A complex story à la Gone Girl doesn’t just pop out of a writer’s brain fully formed on a random Tuesday. Giving readers what they crave is about structure and pacing and, ultimately, originality. In 2019, it’s also about writing characters with more depth than your archetypal male dick motivated by some dead girl who maybe, if she’s lucky, gets to have a name.
To learn more about the elements of great mystery architecture, Vulture asked eight masters of the form to anatomize their thinking, from the most conceptual level down to the technical details. None of their tips or habits are compulsory, and some even contradict one another, but together they represent craft perfected to the level of art. (Spoiler: Literal crafts are sometimes involved.)
goodhousekeeping.com – Tuesday October 15, 2019
If you want to know how to write a book, we've got the answer. While it's a daunting task, it's not impossible and here, experts share their top tips to help you get published.
November marks National Novel Writing Month, a global initiative which aims to inspire and encourage writers across the world.
The goal is to write 50,000 words in a month – which sounds daunting but in fact is just over 1000 a day. So if you’ve always wanted to know how to write a book, now is the perfect time.
juneauempire.com – Sunday October 13, 2019
One of my favorite (and simultaneously most hated) qualities of children is their tendency to be unintentionally blunt.
Over the past year, my daughter, son and their little parliament of friends have called me out on hiding my baldness with a Yankees cap, wearing the same clothes every day and “having claws” (read: grossly unclipped toenails). I don’t even want to tell you the comments I hear at the pool. Suffice to say I need to cut back on the midnight Nutella spoons.
Earlier this week, the apples of my eye point-blankedly asked me why I didn’t have a job. I told them that wasn’t true, that I was a writer, to which they both responded: “no, a real job.” So I printed a copy of my curriculum vitae. I still don’t think they were impressed — even after they checked my references.
|Click here for the rest of this month's articles >|
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