Monday, July 7, 2008

The ABCs of Writing Fiction Section U-V

ABCs of Writing Fiction
Section U-V
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U – Understand the Business. First and foremost, you need to know this is a very slow business. Agents can take a week to get back to you or months. Some may never respond. Don’t take it personally. They get hundreds of queries every week. Editors usually take a few months. A simple query may come back faster, but 3 chapters usually takes 3-8 months or more. If you are lucky enough to get a request for a full manuscript, it will usually take them a few months longer to read hundreds of pages than it took them to read your partial (3 chapters, synopsis and query). These times are approximates, but they are probably the average. Once an editor likes your manuscript, he/she has to sell it to the publisher. That takes time. They may want revisions before they offer to buy the book. That’s up to you. My take is if the suggestions will make it a better story, why not do them? Once they decide to offer you a contract, you have to go through the revision process (again). Then once you think you are done, you have to approve the galleys (final version). Don’t go into this thinking your book will be out in a few months. I would assume your book won’t hit the shelves for a full year from the time they offer a contract. You’ll be pleasantly surprised if they give you an earlier date. Even popular e-publishers are taking over 6 months publish a book online.

There are two sides to every coin. Although agents and editors may take a long time to get back to you, they want you to hurry up and get the work done. It’s like rushing to stand in line.

Understanding the business includes a basic knowledge of advances and royalties. Looking to get rich? Try the stock market. Most writers don’t make a lot of money unless they are doing well on the lists (NY Times). There are exceptions, but they ARE EXCEPTIONS. Brenda Hiatt reports the average advances and standard royalty percentages for romance publishers at On the left side of her website, click on Show Me The Money! From what I’ve heard, the only e-pubbed writers making good money are erotica writers at popular sites. I could be wrong, but if someone is getting rich online without sex scenes, they aren’t sharing their good news.

V – Voice. The typical explanation of voice is when you read a page you know the author without anyone telling you. Dr. Seuss is a great example. I think voice encompasses much more. Many authors will debate the meaning. I believe voice encompasses your style, the themes you choose, the types of characters you usually write about, your outlook on life, etc. It can change as you grow as a person and when you tackle a different genre, sort of like the way you act when visiting an older relative will probably be different than the way you act when flirting with someone of the opposite sex, but there are still parts of your personality that won’t change in both scenarios. In both cases, I wouldn’t deliberately do anything to hurt anyone’s feelings. I enjoy writing humorous mysteries, but if I write a darker story, some elements of my voice will still show. All of my stories show my belief that good will win over evil, that people (including characters) need close friends, and sometimes you have to laugh. (I have to add the humor. I can’t help myself.)

Now that you know your story will take forever to get published and your wallet will probably not get any thicker, hurry up and write that story.

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