Monday, 29 June 2009

Hiring a Pro?

I'm posting this fascinating article on hiring a professional editor to help prepare your book for submission. It's not an issue discussed very often on the internet and there doesn't seem to be an easy yes or no answer, but I get the feeling it's becoming a lot more common than people think. As publishing companies cut back more and more the prospect of getting editing in-house gets less likely, so the more you can get your own submission into shape the better your chance of acceptance.

And here is a bit of shameless mother's pride. My elder son Mike has just completed his degree in digital animation and his project for this year has been nominated with two others for a Royal Television Society Student Award. Here is the link to his animation, but you will need to have installed Quiktime and be running Firefox or Safari for the best results. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

The Ego Has Landed

Following on from last post, and not unrelated to the whole issue of Writers' Groups, is the role Ego plays in the life of the writer.

Now, I expect you're thinking I'm going to say something like this:

Ego = bad, wicked writer - get ye to the submission pile for ever and ever!

No ego = good, nice writer - have a publishing contract!

Because that's what you see on a lot of blogs about this subject. But I don't think it's as simple as that.

What is Ego, anyway, if not a sense of self. Without it, we'd all behave like sheep, bending to the will of every editor or agent without the guts to stand up for ourselves, our work or the vision that inspired us in the first place. You can't afford to cave to every whiff of criticism or your work will suffer. And to add steel to our resolve we need our egos to big us up in our own estimation.

Ego is the only thing that can pull us out of those deep dark holes of despair the submissions process casts us into. It's the thing that makes us grit our teeth, muttering oaths and swearing revenge on the b******s who binned our precious stories. It's the thing that keeps us going through seemingly endless rewrites, too proud to admit defeat, too stubborn to admit all our critics might be right and we are hopeless.

So don't knock ego. In its place, it's your best friend and most reliable ally in this business.

However, it can run amok and I've seen this happen a lot on writers' boards. Somewhere down the line some writers begin to get addicted to the ego boost of showing off to their peers and lesser mortals. Perhaps they get worn out by the endless rejections; perhaps they haven't the guts to even send anything out. After all, their precious overblown egos couldn't take the rejection, could they? So instead these online addicts would rather lord it over a few adoring strangers, or spar with perceived inferiors at their own pseudo-intellectual game of tag than do any real writing.

YouWriteOn has for a long time been plagued by this sort of behaviour. The culprits are easy to spot. They have long running arguments with each other, communicate in private jokes and oblique references no one else can get. They set themselves up as experts and everyone else as idiots. They hijack other people's attempts at a reasonable discussion by flaming or alienating everyone with their condescending attitude. Yes, as Edie would say, they are Mega Pains In The Ass.

But however annoying they are, the person who suffers most from this behaviour is themselves. The rest of us can walk away, or switch off, but having to live with such an overbearing ego which won't allow them to fail is a terrible cross to bear. Because without failing, they can never get better.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Writers' Groups - a word of caution

I don't share Edie's cynicism about Writers' Groups; I probably wouldn't still be writing if it hadn't been for the camaraderie and encouragement I received early on from online Writers' Groups, and for that I'm eternally grateful. Writing is a lonely business unless you happen to live in a writer's commune or have the good fortune to come from a family of writers. I don't. So any contact and friendship is valuable.

And you can learn a lot from them, not just about the craft of writing although there's that of course. To be honest I haven't found critiques to be terribly helpful on the whole. Critiquing other people's work is more useful - it teaches you to look critically at your own work which is what you ultimately need to be able to do. Crits of your work do prepare you for the scathing criticism you'll be subjected to if you ever submit your work for scrutiny, helping you to develop a thick skin which is definitely necessary.

They are useful places to exchange tips and information about the publishing business. It's a good way to find out about new agencies and who's recruiting. They are good places to ask for advice from people who've already travelled your path and have some experience to share.

BUT - here we get to the snag - it's always important to remember that not every poster on a website knows what they are talking about. Think about it. You don't really know these people except by what they say about themselves, and sadly there are many deluded fantasists out there. However well meaning they are, their clumsy and badly thought out advice can be worse than nothing.

And then there are the few whose motives are a little more sinister; another thing to bear in mind is there is a lot of frustration and jealousy in the writing community. Some people cannot bear to see someone else getting the success or even attention they crave and will do all they can to put a fly in the ointment.

So, how do you know who to trust?

Well, honesty is usually easy to spot because it chimes as "common sense". You may not always like this advice at first, if it isn't what you want to hear, but the truth of it will usually sink in after a day or two.
Check out their credentials if possible. Do they have a book published by a reputable company? Do they hold the respect of the people around them? Or are they always getting into flame wars and causing arguments on the site?
Always take advice with a degree of caution, wherever it comes from, and use your own discretion about following it. Even industry insiders can be so jaded and embittered their advice is tainted and not worth much, so learn to follow your instinct first and foremost.

Remember - no one can tell you what is best for you - only you can do that.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Revision checklist

I saw this on the lovely Nathan Brandsford's blog this morning and had to share.

As I'm currently revising I can attest to the fact it is a valuable list to keep handy.


Thursday, 4 June 2009

Ello, ello, ello...

I'm looking for a bit of help with research. One of my characters is a Detective Sergeant and I need to fill in a bit of bio and procedural information (mainly for my own benefit) to fill him in a little. Unfortunately all I know about police begins and ends with The Bill which probably isn't the best source material. So I'm issuing a plea to anyone reading this who knows a bit about police business from the inside (preferably British - or Scottish to be specific - but other countries might be useful on general questions) and doesn't mind asking a lot of questions from an ignoramus. Please leave a comment and I'll get back to you.

Anyone remember Z Cars and Dixon of Dock Green? I'm sure things have moved on since then...