Monday, June 16, 2008

Writer Questions

Last week presented me with the opportunity to talk to several groups of writers in slightly out-of-routine ways. A few things came up in those discussions which I thought might be worth sharing.

When an editor says, "I really liked this, but I have to reject it," what is the secret message?

It's not a secret message. It means just what it says. Sometimes we like things but can't place them.

Why would this happen? Maybe we're overstocked in one particular story type, or we just bought something with a too-similar plot, or the market appears to be turning and we're shying off from whatever you're selling. It's nothing personal. It's got very little to do with your work.

The one possible exception to this rule -- and it's not a deliberate trick we pull, but just something worth mentioning -- is when we compliment a specific area of your workduring a rejection. "I really liked your plot, but I have to reject this" could mean that your plot is strong, but not strong enough to compensate for other weaknesses.

Do you ever reject because of bad grammar or similar writing mistakes?


This question comes up pretty frequently, and I'm always surprised by it. Why would this even be a question? Think of it this way. If you can't drive a car, then I'm not going to hire you as a chauffeur. If you can't make toast, then I won't hire you to cater my party. If you can't write, then I'm not going to hire you as a writer.

You need a certain set of skills to be capable of performing a certain job. In this case, you need to be able to tell a coherent story with words on a page. This means understanding how to manipulate those words on the page to achieve a desired effect. Sloppy writing interferes with that goal.

What is the next big trend?

Um. Er.

This is always hard to answer because it asks me to predict reader behavior. I can tell you what looks fresh in my slush pile. I can tell you what seems to be selling well at the moment, or what appears to be falling off. I can put those facts together and come up with some educated guesses, but they're still just guesses.

That said, paranormal is still performing well. I'm skeptical of the rush to tout angels and demons as the next big paranormal wave, but it could happen. The world-building in scifi romance feels very fresh and inventive lately, and there's a chance readers might take notice. Snappy, bright contemporaries have a loyal core readership, same as historicals, and I don't expect that to change.

What I am more interested in, as far as trends go, is a possible shift in point of view usages in romance. We've been wedded to these very tightly focused, subjective forms of third person for a while now. First person, too, which is functionally similar to those tight and deep thirds. These pov choices create lots of wonderful intimacy with the characters, but we lose something of scope. There are hints and glimpses of more sweeping point of view choices starting to worm their way into books, and if readers respond well to that, we may start seeing books with more panoramic views. (If you've heard publishing people talk about the possibility of "the return of the big historical," this is most likely what they're talking about -- this trend is sneaking into commercial historicals from lit/genfic historicals, but only in a very small way yet. Stay tuned.)



Wes said...

How is the market for historical fiction?

Anonymous said...

Very informative, what a great post! I had my novel all plotted out with the assumption that it would be told through the heroine's exclusive POV...then after some thought, I felt the story would be better told through 2 more character POV's, but without head-hopping.

After reading this, I feel I could be on the right track. Thanks!

Edittorrent said...

Wes, I don't deal much with historical non-romance, but I can tell you that my grapevine calls this one "still going strong." I hesitate to get too in-depth with a discussion of this market. There are many differences between that and what I usually deal with -- WW2 settings do better in mainstream historicals than in historical romance, for example.

Anon, the strong trend in my niche is still toward a tight and deep third person pov. Multiple thirds are okay, but they still tend to be deep. What I'm talking about is the hint of a beginning of a trend which probably won't reach fruition for quite some time.