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Newsletter Dated: 2/29/2004 10:57:50 PM
Subject: Soup*s On
Andrea Campbell’s Newsletter
*** Greetings! ***
This newsletter is being sent to you because you are a writer, family member, professional friend of Andrea’s, or a fan and reader of her books. If you are new to the list, welcome. There are a ton of newsletters and e-zines out there to read, thanks for requesting and reading mine. I am excited about this venue because it gives me the opportunity to reach larger numbers of people in a much shorter time. It will also contain more personal content and address things I don’t discuss on my web site.
Have questions, comments, or ideas for future publication? I look forward to your input and never turn down helpful hints. This newsletter is a continued work-in-progress and I hope you will stay around to see new features in every bi-monthly issue.
In this issue:
* From the Author*s Desk
* Game to Fame
* On The Road
* Pat Holt Uncensored
* My Overnight Success (That Only Took 20 Years)
* Other Authors (and Me)
* Contest for Free Books
*** From The Author*s Desk ***
My author friends are busy readying for conferences, working on promotions, gearing up for new projects, and some of them still find time to lend their voices to this issue, I thank them for contributing.
Do you belong to an e-group? Since writing is such solitary work, I find the emails from other artists inspirational and full of advice. I belong to several types of groups. Most of them originate with Yahoogroups. The Guppies—a subgroup of Sisters in Crime—have a great organization made up of unpublished mystery or crime novel writers. Don’t let the word "unpublished" define them though! (Breakthroughs are celebrated quite often.) I write a column for their newsletter, First Draft, about forensic science and criminal justice. They also have their own subgroup devoted to gaining representation called Agent Quest. These writers are savvy, helpful, and ready to share all types of news pertinent to publication.
Of course, the American Society of Journalists and Authors has several egroups, many of them specific to writer specialties. Under their banner, I belong to the books group and another about writing life, which takes in a world of topics from equipment and software, to web site information, resources, contracts and anything that might be overheard at the water cooler.
Mystery writers have some terrific egroup lifelines. In addition to the national breaking news I get from the Mystery Writers of America, I also get mail from my southwestern chapter, and another subgroup called Murder Must Advertise. Check them out.
*** Game To Fame ***
I don’t remember how I got hornswoggled into becoming a contestant, but I have a short profile posted on http://gametofame.net/profiles.asp?quserid=zigandme I am listed among a motley group, people who aspire to be the most popular, most visited, and, gameplayer that I am, I’m there, too. So visit the site, cast a vote for me, and if you email my profile to someone else, I get 25 fame points that can spiral into big numbers exponentially, yeah!
*** On The Road ***
Look for me at the ASJA Conference in New York City!
My topic is Finding and Managing Sources and, again, I have stellar panelists: Steve Weinberg, author of THE REPORTER’S HANDBOOK, Dan Forbush, President of ProfNet; William Bastone, editor of TheSmokingGun.com, and Roger Johnson, President and founder of Newswise.
The conference is open to the public on Saturday, April 24, 2004. Location: Grand Hyatt Hotel (near Grand Central Terminal) and advance registration is suggested. For more, go to: http://www.asja.org
*Note: I am in Manhattan April 22-29, and will sandwich in the Mystery Writers of America Symposium. If you would like to meet, go to lunch, or attend a function together, send an email to: email@example.com
*** Pat Holt Uncensored ***
If you do not know Pat Holt, you must make a quick run over to her web site. She has kindly offered me the privilege of reprinting her >mistakes writers don’t see< article. Due to newsletter space, however, you are privy to just the first two of the ten (more later). If you cannot wait for the rest, visit Ms. Holt’s site at: http://www.holtuncensored.com/index.html
Ten Mistakes Writers Don't See (But Can Easily Fix When They Do)
Like many editorial consultants, I've been concerned about the amount of time I've been spending on easy fixes that the author shouldn't have to pay for.
Sometimes the question of where to put a comma, how to use a verb or why not to repeat a word can be important, even strategic. But most of the time the author either missed that day's grammar lesson in elementary school or is too close to the manuscript to make corrections before I see it.
So the following is a list I'll be referring to people *before* they submit anything in writing to anybody (me, agent, publisher, your mom, your boss). From email messages and front-page news in the New York Times to published books and magazine articles, the 10 ouchies listed here crop up everywhere. They're so pernicious that even respected Internet columnists are not immune.
The list also could be called, "10 COMMON PROBLEMS THAT DISMISS YOU AS AN AMATEUR," because these mistakes are obvious to literary agents and editors, who may start wording their decline letter by page 5. What a tragedy that would be.
So here we go:
Just about every writer unconsciously leans on a "crutch" word. Hillary Clinton's repeated word is "eager" (can you believe it? the committee that wrote "Living History" should be ashamed). Cosmopolitan magazine editor Kate White uses "quickly" over a dozen times in "A Body To Die For." Jack Kerouac's crutch word in "On the Road" is "sad," sometimes doubly so - "sad, sad." Ann Packer's in "The Dive from Clausen's Pier" is "weird."
Crutch words are usually unremarkable. That's why they slip under editorial radar - they're not even worth repeating, but there you have it, pop, pop, pop, up they come. Readers, however, notice them, get irked by them and are eventually distracted by them, and down goes your book, never to be opened again.
But even if the word is unusual, and even if you use it differently when you repeat it, don't: Set a higher standard for yourself even if readers won't notice. In Jennifer Egan's "Look at me," the core word - a good word, but because it's good, you get *one* per book - is "abraded." Here's the problem:
"Victoria's blue gaze abraded me with the texture of ground glass." page 202
"...(metal trucks abrading the concrete)..." page 217
"...he relished the abrasion of her skepticism..." page 256
"...since his abrasion with Z ..." page 272
The same goes for repeats of several words together - a phrase or sentence that may seem fresh at first, but, restated many times, draws attention from the author's strengths. Sheldon Siegel nearly bludgeons us in his otherwise witty and articulate courtroom thriller, "Final Verdict" with a sentence construction that's repeated throughout the book:
"His tone oozes self-righteousness when he says..." page 188
"His voice is barely audible when he says..." page 193
"His tone is unapologetic when he says..." page 199
"Rosie keeps her tone even when she says..." page 200
"His tone is even when he says..." page 205
"I switch to my lawyer voice when I say ..." page 211
"He sounds like Grace when he says..." page 211
What a tragedy. I'm not saying all forms of this sentence should be lopped off. Lawyers find their rhythm in the courtroom by phrasing questions in the same or similar way. It's just that you can't do it too often on the page. After the third or fourth or 16th time, readers exclaim silently, "Where was the editor who shoulda caught this?" or "What was the author thinking?"
So if you are the author, don't wait for the agent or house or even editorial consultant to catch this stuff *for* you. Attune your eye now. Vow to yourself, NO REPEATS.
And by the way, even deliberate repeats should always be questioned: "Here are the documents." says one character. "If these are the documents, I'll oppose you," says another. A repeat like that just keeps us on the surface. Figure out a different word; or rewrite the exchange. Repeats rarely allow you to probe deeper.
2. FLAT WRITING
"He wanted to know but couldn't understand what she had to say, so he waited until she was ready to tell him before asking what she meant."
Something is conveyed in this sentence, but who cares? The writing is so flat, it just dies on the page. You can't fix it with a few replacement words - you have to give it depth, texture, character. Here's another:
"Bob looked at the clock and wondered if he would have time to stop for gas before driving to school to pick up his son after band practice." True, this could be important - his wife might have hired a private investigator to document Bob's inability to pick up his son on time - and it could be that making the sentence bland invests it with more tension. (This is the editorial consultant giving you the benefit of the doubt.) Most of the time, though, a sentence like this acts as filler. It gets us from A to B, all right, but not if we go to the kitchen to make a sandwich and find something else to read when we sit down.
Flat writing is a sign that you've lost interest or are intimidated by your own narrative. It shows that you're veering toward mediocrity, that your brain is fatigued, that you've lost your inspiration. So use it as a lesson. When you see flat writing on the page, it's time to rethink, refuel and rewrite. (....to be continued)
*** My Overnight Success (That Only Took 20 Years) ***
by Susan McBride
Author of BLUE BLOOD, A Debutante Dropout Mystery, Avon, 02/04
I feel like one of those overnight success stories. The kind of “overnight” that took, oh, about 20 years. With BLUE BLOOD hot off the presses from Morrow/Avon this month and selling more briskly than anyone ever dreamed, my career finally seems to have gotten a firm toehold on the slippery slopes of publishing. BLUE BLOOD is the first of my Debutante Dropout Mysteries, a new series featuring a Dallas heiress-don’t-wannabe named Andy Kendricks. The book is a Featured Alternate Selection of the Mystery Guild and went into a second printing even before its official release. I’m getting emails from all over the country, with people picking up the title in their local bookstores, Wal-Marts or grocery stores. It’s even been sighted in several airports! As my friend and fellow author Letha Albright lamented, “Isn’t it odd being in a business where having our work appear in supermarkets and airport kiosks is considered the pinnacle of success?”
She’s right, but I couldn’t be happier. My overnight success has been a long time in coming. Five years ago this May, I saw my debut novel, AND THEN SHE WAS GONE, released by a small traditional press. I’d been writing for at least a decade at that point, constantly getting “this close” to being published and never quite making it through the door. GONE was truly my baptism into the book biz, and I learned so many things after its release; like the fact that, without a good distribution system, your book will likely never see the shelves of a B&N or Borders. Your friends and family will email you saying, “My local store has to special order, and it takes three weeks!” Not exactly the sort of encouragement I’d imagined when I’d dreamed of my debut.
What small press publication did make me realize was that I wanted to be with a NY house more than anything; I craved having the kind of distribution that so many of my friends had. And so I made that my goal, and I knew that the first step was getting a literary agent who brokered deals that got noticed. I haunted web sites on-line like http://literaryagents.org and printed out the agent listings from the Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR). I started querying agents, via email if possible, and found someone who wanted to look at a manuscript (then called DEATH AND THE DEBUTANTE DROPOUT), which, after some revisions, became BLUE BLOOD. Within a month or so after she’d started marketing BLUE BLOOD to publishers, we had a three-book deal.
A three-book deal that was 20 years in the making. Phew.
Now for my secret! Well, er, unfortunately, I don’t have any. Not a single trick I can share about “how to break into NY,” because there really aren’t any shortcuts. Believe me, if I knew any, I’d have used them long ago. What it takes is persistence and grabbing opportunities as they arise. Read a lot, attend conventions and network, drop by author signings at your local bookstore and ask questions, and write, write, write. You can’t just finish one manuscript and think, “Ah-ha, now I’m done.” You always need that “next thing,” because it could very well be that project that propels you forward in your career, right to that place you’d always imagined you’d be. That’s what happened to me. If anything, I can serve as an example that all things are possible. It can be done. So work hard, keep plugging away, and believe.
*** Other Authors (and Me) ***
I have recent contributions published in two other author’s ebooks. LOSS COMFORT & HEALING FROM ANIMAL SIGHTINGS: True Experiences of Animal Blessings (ISBN 0-9712939-7-X) by Patricia Spork. LOSS came out in December 2003, with a softcover in the works. Thirty-five contributors share their special bond between themselves, animals and the soul, when loss affects someone's life. A PDF e-book can be purchased for $5.95 at: http://www.writersgraphicimage.com
Next issue, more information about 8 STEPS TO GIVING OUTRAGEOUSLY SUCCESSFUL PARTIES…WITHOUT BREAKING THE BANK by Audri and Jim Lanford. This terrific ebook came out in January and I’m happy to be in it.
*** Contest for Free Books ***
The first two people to bring in at least one or more subscribers for Soup’s On, will receive a free copy of THE RENEGADE WRITER. Send an email with the new subscriber’s names and email addresses to: firstname.lastname@example.org Put >The Renegade Writer< in the subject line please. Include your own mailing address in case you win. Information about the book follows:
THE RENEGADE WRITER: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success is transforming the freelance writing market. Freelance writers—newbies and veterans—are inspired by Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell's unconventional advice on how to break the "rules" of freelance writing to get into new markets, get more writing work, and make more money doing it.
Once Linda and Diana were good rule-following freelance writers. They wrote one-page query letters, never bothered an editor, and took every little assignment that came their way.
Business was OK, but one day something odd happened. An editor at Woman's Day told Linda that she liked an idea, but her one-page query was much too short. "Too short?" thought Linda. "But all the books on freelancing say to keep your queries to one page!" She abandoned that old rule and began writing two- and three-page queries. Assignments from Woman's Day, Redbook and Family Circle quickly followed.
Diana had similar eye-opening experiences. She knew freelancers aren't supposed to call editors—they're much too busy! But one day she couldn't resist calling an editor at a chain of local weeklies to pitch her talents as a writer. Guess what—the editor was happy to chat with her, and gave her two assignments the next day!
Other famous "rules" soon bit the dust. Send simultaneous queries? No problem. Negotiate for more money? Yes, do it often. Turn down work? Whenever it doesn't suit you.
The Renegade Writer is packed with advice on succeeding while breaking these silly old "rules," and scores of others. The book is available at http://www.marionstreetpress.com or Amazon.com.
*** Future Newsletters ***
In upcoming newsletters I hope to answer reader’s questions, share a new story or two, talk more about publishing, and provide additional writer’s tips. If there is any area of my life or work you would like to discuss, from autopsy to monkeys, just send me a note. Thanks for the read. : 0 )
Copyright©2004 Andrea Campbell If you wish to quote from here, fine, just attribute it to me and my web site.