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Newsletter Dated: 4/30/2008 9:56:46 PM
Subject: Andrea Campbell*s Soup*s On
*** Greetings! ***
This newsletter is being sent to you because you are a writer, 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.
New! We are now going to accept writing-related or book debut advertising. The ads will be limited in number, minimal, and inexpensive. Please contact: email@example.com for more information and rates.
In this issue:
• From the Author*s Desk
• Elizabeth Lyon Interview
• Cheryl Solimini Interview
*** From The Author*s Desk ***
Looking for a fresh take on crime and media issues? Women in Crime Ink brings you a different take than what’s dramatized on TV, though you could probably recognize us from a lineup of media outlets. On this blog, you’ll find true-crime authors, print and broadcast journalists, producers for CNN and CBS News, television personalities, and criminal justice professionals—including a forensic artist, a criminal profiler, a prosecutor, and a private investigator.
June 10th, my e-course Publish That Book: How to Write a Nonfiction Book Proposal That Sells is back for another session. If you’ve wanted to write that book but can’t seem to get it together, this e-class is your solution. Students are already on board! Check it out at: http://www.absoluteclasses.com/Campbell/publish.htm
Love Monkey is here; you can see a few of the characters, download a sell sheet, pick-up free Author’s Notes or buy a copy securely with PayPal. Love Monkey is whacked, sure, (because the characters are monkeys) but the story is right-on and the book pictures are a hoot! Great for gifts for the romance or mystery friend. Take a look: http://www.monkeyromance.com
*** Manuscript Makeover ***
Q.: Elizabeth, could you tell Soup's On readers about your background?
A: I’ve been a full-time independent editor and writing instructor for twenty years. In 1988, a close friend of mine bequeathed his continuing ed, community college writing classes and editing business to me. Two weeks later, I stood before four summer classes. I had been studying, writing fiction and nonfiction, participating in critique groups, attending conferences, and doing a small amount of freelance writing and editing since 1980.
Q.: Your new book, Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore just came out. What inspired you to write this book?
A: Long ago, I identified several dozen mistakes common to almost all of the novels I edited, no matter what genre and applying to published and unpublished novelists alike. It felt like time to share what I’d learned—and hand the tools of revision to writers.
Q.: There are many prescriptive books out there on how to write fiction, why is yours different?
A: In writing my books for writers, I’ve always held to a specific standard: My books must contribute to the literature, offer highly organized and accessible instruction, and be comprehensive. I did not find one that met all three of these criteria.
Editors within publishing houses customarily work with novels that have been acquired, and thus these works are “almost ready.” What they offer as guidance won’t be detailed enough for someone starting out. Some authors are instructors at colleges and teach specific ideas, coursework, and often demonstrate the “how-to” from the classics. They seldom draw examples from contemporary novels or use examples from genre, mainstream, and literary writing. Other how-to books on revision are written by successful novelists, and that means the slant and examples may be skewed toward a particular genre or style, or rely too heavily on the authors’ own novels.
Q.: Can you tell us one or two parts of the book that are your favorites and why?
A: In the Style section, I introduced what may be a first discussion in the literature about the powerful role of unconscious censorship, and not just the “inner critic.” Because each writer is an individual unlike any other human being, all of us should have a unique style. I offer several techniques, like “riff-writing,” to answer that problem.
I also shared the technique of increasing the impact of writing by taking advantage of “power positions.” These are the first and last words or sentences, of paragraphs, sections, chapters, and novels. I had not seen “power positions” taken up by any other instructor/authors, except with scant mention.
In Structure, I felt strongly about the inner structure of scenes; internal characterization within viewpoint and “subtext.” This refers to sources of tension that operate beneath the surface of events and actions in a scene, such as sexual attraction or repulsion, a strong emotion, nature, and so forth.
Q.: I noticed you address things such as Pace and Flashback in this guide, are these difficult to explain?
A: Flashback is fairly easy to explain, and to outline when to use it to great effect and when not to use it. For instance, it is often misused by introduction too early in a story, before a reader cares to know backstory and is not yet engaged in the forward story. A premature flashback is a natural trap, because it is so tempting to brief the reader with a chunk of indigestible exposition.
On the other hand, I agree that Pace is difficult to explain and tricky to get right. Flashback and Pace involve a dive into the time-space continuum. One of the great aspects of fiction involves the manipulation of time, controlling its speed. With Flashback, the writer directs the reader to become a time traveler. Changing Pace throughout a story requires development of a writer’s intuition, a special kind of deep listening to the story to catch when to make a shift in speed. After deciding when and in what direction—faster or slower—then the writer needs to know the techniques for speeding or slowing pace.
Q.: I've always thought that voice was integral to fiction, how have you talked about that in Manuscript Makeover?
A: Voice is similar to and often used synonymously with Style. I think of Voice as coming from within the writer, reflecting everything about the writer’s self, family, age, race, heritage, religious, region, and so forth. I think of Style as an effect of voice. Style can also be altered by strengthening word choice, varying sentence structure, and otherwise manipulating the writing. For an easy handle, I think of Voice as “inside-out” and Style as “outside-in,” and using techniques to cultivate both are part of revision.
Q.: What do you think is the single, most egregious mistake writers make with fiction?
A: The most egregious mistakes just happen to be clichés that are true. Turned into advice, a writer can counter mistakes by doing the following:
• Keep writing; don’t give up. Writing at a professional and publishable level of skill takes far longer than most writers think.
• Read how-to books about all aspects of craft.
• Get constructive feedback from other writers, readers, teachers, and editors.
• Don’t work one novel or story to death. After a reasonable amount of time writing and revising, move on to other stories. Each one teaches you something new and your skill grows with facing different creative challenges.
• Immerse in the writing community—attend author talks, workshops, and conferences.
• There will always be writers with more and less talent and skill than you possess. Stop comparing yourself. Write, revise, market. These are your jobs.
• Be flexible. If one genre doesn’t work, try another one. If one strategy of marketing fails, adopt a new one. Don’t accept two words: “I can’t.”
Q.: We've heard that raising questions increase increases tension, your book is the first one I've read that >analyzes< that issue.
A: Most of us have difficulty implementing instruction, what a mentor of mine referred to as “know of,” directly into writing, which is “know how.” For instance, it’s obvious that when a writer raises curiosity in a reader, the result is an increase in suspense. “What’s going to happen next?” the reader should ask. But what techniques create this result? I discovered my students learned best from models, i.e. examples, either of published authors or from excerpts taken from their own writing that I revised. I can do this latter technique for editing clients but not for readers. Analysis of successful published examples leads my readers into recognition of how the “magic trick” is accomplished.
Q.: Have query letters changed in the last decade?
A: Yes. I have the sense that the squirrel cage is spinning faster. Agents and editors are under enormous pressure to select and sell, and to select well. Agents now receive as many as 100 queries a week, and they may not have staff; snap decisions are made. The day of the e-mail query is here; about 30 percent of literary agents accept, prefer, or require e-mail queries. Although they are mutually beneficial because of their efficiency, the nature of e-mail is short. Whereas the paper query has been whittled down to one page, about five or so paragraphs, the e-mail query is best shortened even more. Can a longer query ever succeed? Exceptions abound and yet, not very often. I advise writers to study how to write queries and then to revise til the cows come home.
Q.: Will you tell us about your publisher? Good experience? Fair treatment? Good support?
A: I’ve now experienced 4 publishers.
I was my own first publisher with Red Lyon Publications. I self-published a 2500-copy print-run of one book, “Mabel: The Story of One Midwife.” That experience exposed me to every facet of publishing, and I was hooked. Ten years after the 1982 publication, I had finally sold (almost) all of the copies, and broke even. I’ve been told that this book is considered a “midwifery classic.”
A first “real” publisher can be like a first lover; I was lucky to be with an outstanding small press, Blue Heron Publishing in Hillsboro, Oregon. The owners, Dennis and Linny Stovall, published perhaps 400 writers and fostered the development of many, who have since become well known (Chuck Palaniuk, Diana Abu-Jaber, Sherman Alexie, Judith Barrington, among others). The Stovalls held progressive ideas about writer’s rights, and they cared about all of their authors. My contracts were not only fair; they were superior. I had full support, marketing and promotion, as well as Linny’s efforts to set-up talks, signings, and conferences. I felt respected. When the Stovalls moved on, I was orphaned, gaining back the rights to my first two books, “Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write,” and “The Sell Your Novel Tool Kit.”
Since 2001, my publisher has been Perigee Books, an imprint of US Penguin, in New York. They acquired my orphaned books, reprinting them, and subsequently published three more books I’ve written: “A Writer’s Guide to Nonfiction,” “Writer’s Guide to Fiction,” and now “Manuscript Makeover.” All Perigee contracts have included advances. Sales have been better because of big publisher distribution. I lucked out with the editors I’ve had. Communications have always been friendly, professional, and timely. When I had a series of family crises, my requests for extensions were granted. Yet, the culture and operations of the corporation pervade everything.
The big house contracts were written by attorneys whose singular goal was to figure out how to give authors the least amount of money possible. The contracts are mostly non-negotiable and I have always felt like a serf on the feudal lord’s estate. Publicists are assigned to each book, e-mails answered, and I’m assured that there is promotion within a three-month window of a book’s release. Yet, publicity or the results haven’t been visible to me. And there is no monetary support for any efforts I make. Because the corporation publishes 100-120 per year, promotion is up to me.
My fourth experience was working with a smaller independent New York publisher, M. Evans & Company. They brought out my “National Directory of Editors & Writers,” a compilation of 530 profiles of US freelance writers and editors. My relationship with my M. Evans’ editor had aspects of informal friendship, yet the process also had the distance and constraints of Perigee’s corporate style. Shortly after my directory was published, however, a bigger fish bought M. Evans & Company, Rowman & Littlefield.
Q.: Anything you'd like to add?
A: I realize I am very fortunate, period. Books on writing are a niche, and I have six books in print, nearly continuously since 1995. They are all small, backlist sellers, but I envision them as my IRA. Because hope springs eternal, I hope that “Manuscript Makeover” will be my bestseller.
www.4-edit.com (Editing International)
Elizabeth Lyon, a regular speaker at writing conferences and retreats, has been a contributor to The Writer and Writer’s Digest and is a mentor, professional book editor, and writing teacher.
*** Across the River ***
Q.: Cheryl, you have several jobs, can you tell Soup's On readers what you do?
A.: Over the past nearly 30 years, I have held every possible job in magazine publishing, from proofreader (for a soft-porn magazine) to editor-in-chief (of a Christmas magazine), and have written for Family Circle, Prevention, Redbook, Sesame Street Parents, Woman’s Day, WomansDay.com, Working Mother and Working Woman, among others. Right now I am a part-time editor for a children’s magazine, a part-time Web designer and a full-time freelance writer, fiction and nonfiction. So I’m working about 37 1/2 hours a day.
Q.: I met you at an MWA Symposium, gee, it seems like a lifetime ago, how long have you been working on this mystery?
A.: My lifetime. Let’s start in the ‘50s. Some of the incidents in the story were adapted from my own childhood, with a bit of exaggeration, “what if” and poetic license. The opening scene came from a dream I had in the mid-’90s, and the central story was inspired by a conversation I had with Mary Higgins Clark about the Jon-Benet Ramsay case in 2000, when I was features editor of her mystery magazine. I sat down seriously to write the thing on Sept. 10, 2001. We all remember what happened the next day.
Q.: You've written Across the River in first person. Was that your first choice for point of view or did this change over time?
A.: As a longtime mystery reader, I found that the stories that engaged me the most were always first person, so I never considered doing it any other way. To me, first person seems more immediate, more personal; with the reader tagging along as the narrator makes new discoveries. In this case, though, the narrator is also holding back some personal information until the end, which will impact all that went before.
Q.: Your character is a baby-boomer, any particular reason for that?
A.: I am one, and we’re a notorious self-centered generation. As we should be--our pop culture still dominates! The TV shows I watched and music I listened to in the ‘60s are familiar to all ages now. They’ve become multigenerational because they show up on cable TV and in commercials. Our sitcoms are showing up as full-length movies. Even “Angel of the Morning” (1968, Merrilee Rush and the Turnabouts) was covered by Juice Newton (1981), The Pretenders (1995) and Shaggy, (2001). Children of Boomers have been exposed to that culture through their parents. As I watch Scooby-Doo with my 10-year-old nephew, I remember all the episodes.
Q.: Is the book's setting important and why?
A.: This could not be set anywhere else. Undercliff is based on my hometown, which has a fascinating history as a millionaire’s retreat, gangster hideout, industrial center, toxic dump and now commuter suburb. And it is all of three miles long and three blocks, in full view of New York City and yet geographically isolated by the Palisades on one side, the river on the other, a bridge at one end, a tunnel at the other. The town has gone through a huge transition, starting in the late ‘80s-early ‘90s, which is why I also picked an unusual time period. It’s set in 1992, obviously not quite historical, not quite contemporary. But that’s about the time many towns near major cities went through big changes.
Q.: What was the most difficult part of writing fiction for you? Were you inspired by any other writers?
A.: As a journalist, I had been writing “fact” for so long that I found it almost against my own ethics to make stuff up. While I’ve read and love many crime writers, it was Janet Evanovich who made me realize New Jersey is worth writing about, because I know those characters. That made me think that if I based a story on people and settings I knew, I wasn’t really “lying.” But of course, it’s all been filtered through time, memory and imagination.
Q.: Andie Rinaldi, your protagonist, has some pressing problems: lost her job, apartment changes, long-distance romance; how did you decide what ills to have her deal with? Does she overcome them?
A.: Andie needed some really good reasons to hold on to a job that she is clearly ashamed of. Providing for her sister, who has mental-health issues, would be at the top of the list. I also think of the early ‘90s as a time of transition for many Baby Boomers, for the country and for small town. So all of Andie’s problems are reflecting these transitions, which hopefully are leading her to better things—the old “one door closes, and another opens” idea. She doesn’t overcome all of them in this book, but isn’t that what sequels are for?
Q.: Did I have anything to do with the character's name?
A.: Well, um, I didn’t really know you when I started writing, but I’m sure we knew each other in previous life...so, of course! Two odd “name” things: A month after I started writing about Andie, an ex-colleague with the same last name called out of the blue—I hadn’t spoken to her in eight years. Then right in the middle of the process, out of the even bluer blue, I got an E mail from my very best friend from grammar school, who I hadn’t had contact with in 35 years. (She Googled me and found my Web site, which is why I’m glad I never took my husband’s last name.) Her maiden name is an anagram for Rinaldi. We’ve stayed in touch ever since and spent my recent milestone birthday together.
Q.: Your publisher is Deadly Ink. How were they to work with? Did you receive an advance? Editorial support?
A.: It’s a brand-spanking-new press, an offshoot of the Deadly Ink mystery conference that’s been held since 2000 in New Jersey. I received a cash prize and a small advance. I’m heavily involved in everything, from the cover design (I found the photo) to publicity. It’s definitely a partnership...you have to bring whatever you can to the party. But that’s no different with even the bigger publishers these days.
Q.: Any reason for the C. Solimini on the cover?
A.: Yes, five of them:
1. It helps, in my mind at least, to separate my fiction from my nonfiction byline.
2. I wanted to use my initials, like J.K. Rowling, but my parents were too frugal to give me a middle name.
3. My first name, Cheryl, has been variously described in the media as being “difficult to say unless you are chewing gum”--which I don’t--and belonging “only to stewardesses and cheerleaders”--of which I am neither.
4. C. is how I sign E mails to my loved ones, so anyone who buys my book will be my loved one.
5. It gives interviewers a great question to ask.
Q.: Do you have any words of wisdom for other writers who want to get a mystery published?
A.: As soon as you put a word down on paper, start going to conferences devoted to the genre. I’d been in publishing for ages, but I still made plenty of first-timer’s mistakes when approaching agents and editors, and shot myself in the foot more times than I have toes. The other very important thing: FINISH WRITING THE BOOK! Almost no publisher will take on an unknown—even if you’ve been published in other genres--without a completed manuscript. Many of the people I’ve seen at conferences for years still haven’t gotten to writing The End. And those who do deserve Olympic gold!
Author of Across the River: A Mystery
Coming in June 2008 from Deadly Ink Press
E mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mystery Web site: http://www.acrosstheriver.info
*** Future Newsletters ***
In upcoming newsletters we will share a new interview or two, talk more about publishing, and provide additional writer’s tips. If there is any area you would like to discuss, just send me a note. Thanks for the read. : 0 )
Copyright©2008 Andrea Campbell If you wish to quote from here, fine, just attribute it to me and my web site.