I didn’t make anyone cry. Well, not that I saw anyway.
Today was the day of the conference. We didn’t start until 10am–it’s kind of nice to start later and have time to get ready, without getting up at the crack of dawn! I did an hour of editor appointments followed by an hour of cold reads.
With Roxanne St. Claire reading the first two pages (hi, Rocki! I’ll bet Google Alerts brought you back again, didn’t it?) , Diana (aka Amanda Hilton, the owner/publisher of Siren Publishing) and I had to give feedback on what we heard.
Overwhelmingly, the main advice we gave was that there was too much back story, too much info dump, too much telling–the book wasn’t starting with the hook, the pacing was slow and there was nothing to grab the reader. Or, more importantly at that point, nothing to grab the agent/editor to convince them to keep reading the submission.
One thing we talk about in edits is where the real book starts. Did you write that first chapter to cement the story, the background of the characters, some of their information in your head? Does the reader really need all of those details, and if so, do they need them TOLD to them in the first two pages of the manuscript? Probably not.
I think more attention is being paid to this now, especially as contests like the first line contest Samhain held take place, and authors realize that editors and agents–and eventually book buyers–really do want the hook. As I said today, I want a submission that’s going to grab me by the throat and make me forget I’m reading a submission, make me forget about potty training, and cooking dinner and the laundry that’s piling up. In other words, as an editor, I’m just as in need of a book to transport me as the reader in the bookstore probably is. If it can’t transport me, then I’m not going to buy it, because it’s not going to do that for the reader, either.
The beginning and ending of the books–I think those are probably the hardest to write!
Anyhow, I didn’t make anyone cry, as far as I know, and even had a few people come up and say how helpful it is to hear that, how thankful they were for the honesty we gave. But the truth is, if I didn’t say anything but nice things, some day I might see that submission come across my computer, still flawed, and end up rejecting it because I wasn’t honest to start, and that wouldn’t be fair!
The rest of the conference was great, I also did a talk on Samhain, and then we had a panel with some of the authors of Samhain and Siren. I feel like I talked all day–people were probably tired of the sound of my voice. But if someone gets me on one of my favorite topics–epublishing–and keeps asking my questions, I’ll talk as long as they’re willing to listen.
As I said today–one epublishing convert at a time. That’s all it takes.