Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Moving on...

Today we talk about the writing process and book publishing, two of my favorite topics!

Yesterday I was having an email conversation with a friend who has decided to shop her manuscript around for publication. Another friend has also done the same thing, and both are discouraged. This discussion began with a comment about a debut book from a well-known and loved author that was complete crap, yet it was published. This of course begs the question, "why can't I be published if that crap made it?". A very good question, but before we talk about publishing, let's talk about writing.

As I've made my way through an English degree with an advisor with so much literary experience it shames me to be his student, I've learned to be a more critical thinker when it comes to writing and the art of storytelling. A book could have an amazing story, but if the writing is horrible, it means nothing. It could have an amazing airtight plot and completely flop because the author couldn't form a complete sentence. The writing process is different for everyone, but when an author doesn't take the time to think before they type, then there are problems. I will admit my mind runs faster than my fingers on this keyboard, and I tend to leave words out here and there. Before I ever hit publish, I go back and reread, it's as simple as that. Why then, do some books make it to the printer that seem to have never met a red pen? It boggles the mind.

When a new story idea finds me, I tend to bullet the main plot points. This sad, pathetic style could never be called an outline! But it gets me from point A to point B and lets me fill in the blanks in between. What matters is that it works for me. I go through this creative process so I know what to write. I will admit I don't always do this, and whatever I'm writing usually suffers for it until I go back and rework. You'd think I'd learn! :) Everyone has a process, even if they claim they don't.

So back to book publishing-- In my brief stint working for an online publisher, I was completely and utterly shocked at the manuscripts accepted for publication. They were riddled with errors of all kinds, and practically had to be rewritten. I couldn't tell you if there was a good story, because it was lost in the sea of spell check. Among the many reasons I left, time being the main one, was that I refused to rewrite an entire manuscript, which is what would have been needed. I love the editing process, because I want the story to be the best it can be. Right now my editing is done in fan fiction, but it's much the same. A story is a story, and if I'm editing I want it to be the best written piece out there. So I have to ask how crap gets published! Can someone explain this to me? Is it the story, and they overlook the writing because the majority of readers can look past the bad grammar? Is it the name? Why can't my friends, who both are amazing writers, find someone who likes their work enough to publish it?


PS: When I say "book publishing", I mean a book that has been submitted to a publisher, not self published. :) Nothing against self publishing!!


  1. I know what you are saying. I picked up a "bestseller" a couple of days ago and was very disappointed by the writing. The storyline is great, but the writing stinks. I have had to go back and reread sentence after sentence to make sense of what the author is trying to convey. I am pushing through the book, but it is only because of the story. So, I guess that kind of gives my answer your question. A good story can make some people (like me) overlook poor writing. Not always, but sometimes.

  2. From what Judie has said, a lot of it has to do with the sub-genre being written. Publishers will buy stories that fit the parameters of "what's hot," and sod all else, but that's just good business practice. However, if you're not into writing multi-partner vampiric eroticism or some such, for example,'re in for a much rougher time. I'll not comment on what she says about self-pub. *zips lips*

  3. I think an agent definitely has its advantages.

  4. I personally think agented is the way to go, and I'd recommend looking for an agent rather than a publisher. The agent is your advocate; she's working for you to get published, rather than the publisher who is (let's face it) overwhelmed by manuscripts and looking for a reason to reject it. I also think that having an agent still lends more credibility to your work. And finally, remember: at least 50% of getting published is pure, blind luck. I never shopped my manuscript around; I self-published it, and then a publisher inquired about it, which led me to ask a friend if they'd ever heard of the publisher...which lead to another friend, who introduced me to her agent and editor, who then asked to see my work. So keep your connections, don't burn any bridges, don't be shy about asking for introductions, and keep plugging away. :)