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Archive for the ‘Thoughts on Editing’ Category

We all often forget in the glorious insanity of writing that if you wish to publish, your writing is a business. That means you have to treat it and your interactions with everyone as a business dealing. These are my “rules” that I’ve developed by watching and talking with other writers as well as feeling my way through my own career.

1) Writing “cache” is earned not bestowed.

It is like any other job. Really. You must pay your dues as the new kid on the block before you can start to break the rules. I’ve got seven novels and a slew of short stories out there now. The publishers I work with can bank on my name on a title to bring in a certain amount of sales. Because of that I’ve earned a certain amount of license in how I work.

My first novel, not so much. I got the dreaded: we like it, but can’t take it as is. Do some significant re-writes and we may consider publication. I also got the same on the second novel. Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and accept that.

The first one, I queried the editor and politely asked what re-writes. “Chop 2000 words of the front. Expand this relationship. And by the way, your female love interest (a male/male/female triangle) is an absolute raving bitch…tone her down.” Did that bug the hell out of me to have someone critique my baby so bluntly? Hell yes. Did I do the re-writes? Hell yes. And the second set of re-writes they asked for as well. They never did accept that book. But, in the end, I ended up with a much better novel.

The second book, the editor said, “Its great, but to fit our formula, I need the main characters to hate each other by the end of chapter three.” I didn’t do that re-write. It would have changed the entire plot. I politely sent a letter stating that it would require the re-write of the entire plot, but now that I knew what they were looking for, I’d try and write a book geared toward that.

You must sometimes sacrifice your baby to the Gods of Publication. If the second publisher had come back with similar requests to the first, I would have done them. Because, at that time, my name meant nothing to anyone.

2) You’re only as good as your promotion on your last book.

Really and for true folks. Your publisher watches. Even if you have a big named bank roll behind you, they watch. People who are active about getting their own name out there are money makers for them. I have a friend who writes for Bantam. That is BIG. Her editor told her, this is what we expect you to do to promote your own book. It’s not just the small presses who want you out there stumping. The authors I know who’ve sat on their “my book is wonderful” notions and done nothing, they get dumped. Your publisher wants to know that you are invested in you book as well. They don’t expect you to arrange nation wide book signing tours, but passing out flyers, maybe getting on a speakers panel or arranging a chat date on some reader loop: they watch for that.

3) If I’m reading your blog, so is your potential publisher.

I don’t know why so many people have a problem with that concept. They air their dirty laundry in public. My basic philosophy is: Tout your successes to everyone who will listen. Mourn your defeats in private.

I have been watching a certain new writer tank herself. She has written a short story for a collection and two longer stand alone works. The short story was contracted and the longer works under consideration. This is someone who has “broken in.” She then spent the next two months publicly agonizing over the re-writes in her blog. Blasting all the people who offered to help her with them as “red-liners” and “hack artists.” She turns in a re-write, noting something to the effect that she doesn’t know at all why they wanted her to do them. Gets a second request for more clean up and does a public freak out. Pulls the story from the antho (which she’s allowed to do under that contract), announces that she is doing so because she “just can’t work with editors like that,” and other people have told similar “horror” stories.

The best part: She was surprised when two days later she gets a rejection on the two longer works. I will bet that she gets rejects from a lot of publishers as well. She has not earned the right to act like a prima donna.

It is really demoralizing to have someone be brutally honest about your work that you’ve slaved over, agonized about sometimes for years. But go have your bitch fit in private. I railed for nearly a month with the requests I got. Privately, bending my poor guy’s ear off at length and to a couple of private friends. Not on a public blog post.

4) Everyone you meet has the potential to help or hinder your career.

You never know where the next reviewer, news media persona or publisher is. I’ve gotten invited into anthologies because I met someone (who I don’t remember) at some conference. I’ve gotten major reviews outside my genre because I impressed someone while speaking on a panel at some po-dunk convention, or the nice clerk at the book store…who isn’t the clerk but the manager in charge of setting up signings.

I have a friend, both personal and professional, who is a major freelance writer for some major GLBT publications. I met him at someone else’s reading where we just got to chatting. We went and had a drink afterward. Turned out he had a press pass to an event a few weeks later and didn’t want to go stag so I tagged along. Now, anytime one of his publications needs emergency filler I’m one of five people on the rolodex for the “hey what’s new with you?” interview.

Years of managing law offices has taught me that your best business deals are made in riding up the elevator or in the airport bar after the conference is over.

5) You will take crappier deals when you start out.

You don’t have to once you’re established. Obviously, you don’t want to sign away your complete rights in perpetuity to your work for royalties only. Jumping at the first deal, if it’s incredibly one sided, is not a good idea. But, it may be worth your while to take a contract that doesn’t pay much to get your foot in the door.

Keep an eye on what rights you’ve kept. If you’ve sold electronic rights to a work, but kept the print…you still have something to sell. Your publisher will make decisions based on who sells how much. Sometimes it’s fair for you to wait and sometimes its not. If they wish to take a wait and see before offering to buy more rights, and someone else will do it now…well there’s a lot of weighing of risk and such you should make, but sometimes it’s better to take the other deal.

As you get farther up the food chain you have more leverage to negotiate deals you don’t like. Don’t be afraid of a “take it or leave it” card thrown on the table. If you already know what your value is, sometimes the best negotiation strategy for you is to say, “I’ll leave it.” I, at my level, in my market, have options. Deals I would have taken when I started out (and I don’t have any qualms about having made them) well, sometimes they’re just not good enough any more. I have to look at this as a profit making business.

Now, if I take a shot at the next “tier” up of publishers…I may end up taking a deal that’s not quite as good to get my foot in that door.

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I’ve long been fascinated by psychology and what it has to say about the possible variations in human behavior. I considered a double-major in psychology while I was in college but eventually decided to pursue other interests instead. Still, I explored many texts on the subject, and I would often consult those texts when writing short stories and coming up with character ideas. Unlike psychiatry, which seems to use medication to subdue not only seemingly irreversible mental conditions but some types of temporary problems as well, psychology appears to attempt to get at the root of issues through analysis of the human condition.

I used my own observations and personal beliefs regarding human nature when writing some of the stories included in Portraits in the Dark, and I also researched and read texts by various types of psychologists. At times while creating some of these characters, I needed to step outside of of what I thought was a normal course of action in order to figure out what the characters would or would not do. Some were easy–who hasn’t been annoyed at some perceived negative behavior or slight? Who hasn’t thought “what if…”?

But when it came to the decision-making process, I needed to be able to study how far certain decisions can go. Everyone has to make decisions and everyone makes mistakes, but some are more extreme than others.

For instance, in “Fine Print,” the character wavers between accepting an offer that he knows has dire consequences and living a life that he finds difficult to stomach. On the surface it is an easy enough decision but when other factors are included, the “correct” path isn’t the most desirable. Throughout the story there are clues to what type of man he is and why he would do the things he does–his decision is not just based upon a whim or upon what would be my own personal choice in such a situation.

Every day we are confronted with making decisions, how to approach this or that situation. And every day, in the news or in our personal lives, we find unanswered questions. Why did he or she do this, why did something turn out the way it did? How will this turn out, what should be done here? Without the aid of some fortune telling device, it is impossible to know how something will turn out with 100% accuracy. In “Darkened Sky,” the main character is confronted by the decisions that others have made, with deciding if those choices are options for her, or if she should take another route in life. She can’t forsee her future, but she gains some insight by the choices others have made and how she reacts to them. How she chooses is of particular importance being that she is a teenager and the situations in her life contain much danger for someone her age.

There are decisions that need to be made behind everything that goes on in life. Of course, in Portraits in the Dark, the characters and situations are taken to the extreme–bloody deaths, dealing with the supernatural, horrible creatures, surrealism. But there are also the real life quiet horrors of knowing that one decision can possibly have a huge and lasting impact on one’s life and the lives of others, of dealing with situations that one has little control over but must still learn how to navigate.

One reader commented to me that a story he read in Portraits in the Dark, “Fine Print,” changed his outlook on where his life was headed and made him question whether or not he was going in the right direction. I was glad that what I decided to include in the story had such an impact on him, even though he didn’t go into detail about his situation. That is one type of reaction that I think as writers some of us hope for–that our work will connect on some level.

How we view the world, our experiences, how we deal with things, even our genetic make-up can give us some clues as to what we, and others, will do when confronted with such questions. By exploring psychology, we as writers can use our natural abilities to make the characters real. Of course, there is a balance between enhancing the story with psychology and basically creating characters that are straight out of a text-book. Psychology, while helpful, doesn’t cover all of what a human being is capable of; nor does it cover writing style and storytelling ability.

But creating that written world can sometimes allow us to do what we can’t always do in real life–see why others truly act how they act, do what they do. And sometimes what our fictional characters do can leave a lasting, lingering impression on the mind of the reader.

PORTRAITS IN THE DARK ON AMAZON.COM

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Last Tuesday I was googling, yahooing, hakiing and dogpiling websites and blogs of other writers. I realize there is a sea of writers and I wanted to find a way to set myself apart. To be an apple in a sea of oranges so to speak.

I ran across a very well-known author’s site and perused his accomplishments: He’s written over 30 books, he’s a ghostwriter as well as a published author, lecturer, been a guest on all the big news programs such as CNN, MSNBC and so forth. I continued reading and stared at his distinguished picture on his site and thought to myself, What the hell? might as well go for it.

So, I typed a short and concise email asking for pointers and advice. If he responds, I’ll be shocked but it’s worth a try, I thought to myself. I sent the email and continued prowling for leads on jobs without another thought.

About 2 hours later, my phone rang and I answered expecting to hear from a client or one of my writer friends. You can imagine my shock when I hear a man’s voice on the other end telling me he just recieved my email and thought he would give me a call.

ME. Give ME a call. I was dumbfounded and began scrambling for a pen and paper because I wanted to get every last nugget of advice he had to offer me. I smiled to myself as he said, “It’s funny you should write at this time as I am looking for a writer to help with my overflow work.”

Next thing I know, he’s asking me to send 25-30 pages of my best writing to him. I’ve already scrutinized my work this past weekend and have it ready to send out. I thanked him profusely for calling me and marveled at my luck. I thought it would be just another Tuesday.

Who is the author? I’m not tellin- it’s your turn to take a chance.

I love Tuesdays.
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Taryn Simpson is a published ghostwriter dutifully following her bliss. She is currently working on her next novel, “Invisible Fences” and can be found blogging on her websites: http://www.Simpson-EPublishing.blogspot.com and Musings-From-A-Writer.blogspot.com . Come by and leave a comment, won’t you?

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Welcome to the June 12, 2007 edition of writers from across the blogosphere.

Neela Menon presents Well Done, Director! posted at One Hundred Years of Solitude, saying, “This is a collection of intensely personal notes from the diary of an artist, meant for the flames in her winter home. But so much water has flown under the bridge since then, and I dont care now!”

Bob Jones presents Writers Block, How I Deal With It posted at Bob Meets World, saying, “How I deal with writers block.”

articles

Josh presents Stop the Junk Mail posted at My Credit Scores, saying, “Find out why you get so much junk mail, junk email, and phone calls from telemarketers. Then stop it in its tracks.”

Divya presents Plagiarism in freelancing : the ABCs posted at inkpenny, saying, “All you need to know about plagiarism…”

authors

polliwog presents Guest Frogger – Meg Cabot posted at Polliwog’s Pond.

blogs

http://forgottenblueline.blogspot.com presents Can’t take it anymore, Good Bye posted at The Forgotten Blue Line, saying, “I write stories from my work place. I am a security and safety officer for a major East Coast hospital”

book reviews

Numina presents Book Review: Contact by Carl Sagan posted at Numina Reviews the World, saying, “Not complimentary towards the novel, but not a bashing either. Or at least I tried not to bash.”

Meredith Mathews presents I Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids. posted at Lemonade Stand, saying, “Both the cover art and the confessionary title caught my eye. But the writing tone is what I respect most; the authors speak candidly about being a mom and their feelings on it.”

life

Damien presents Que? – A Funny Experience I Had as a First-Year | Riley Central posted at First Edition: Doing What They Love.

politics/current events

Steven Silvers presents Rankles over U.S. News best colleges list hint at bigger issue with media rankings. posted at Scatterbox at stevensilvers.com, saying, “Information-age transparency turns what used to be slam-dunk annual marketing promotions into ongoing controversies about news media methods.”

reading

Ashok presents Notes on Dickinson’s “There’s a certain slant of light” posted at Rethink., saying, “I’m not sure what category this may go under, if anyone cares to read it. One of Dickinson’s most famous poems is posted and then discussed in this post.”

writing

Elvis D presents Looks Like Rain posted at 365fiction.

Elvis D presents Crippled posted at 365fiction.

Elvis D presents Impulse posted at 365fiction.

Jade Blackwater presents Show and Tell Friday – Poetry Selections posted at Brainripples, saying, “Greetings. The Brainripples blog is a place to discuss writing, art, and creativity. Show and Tell Friday is a new feature at Brainripples, and I launched it last week with a selection of my poetry called “Singing of the Spheres.” Thank you for considering my work, and enjoy!

Cheers,
Jade Blackwater
jadeblackwater@brainripples.com”

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of
writers from across the blogosphere
using our
carnival submission form.
Past posts and future hosts can be found on our

blog carnival index page
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This is an announcement that the popular group blog, The Writers’ Block, is seeking new members.

In order to join:
1) You must be a published writer with verifiable credits.
2) You must be able to post a minimum of one entry per month.
3) You must be proactive.

If you are active in promoting your work and your thoughts on various issues, and can spare the time to participate in a group blog, this can be a great opportunity for you. So far authors on the blog have generated increased sales and have been interviewed based on their posts on the blog. We are an eclectic group and all viewpoints are welcomed!

If you are interested, please send a reply to this message.

Thank you!

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(Sorry about the delay in posting this week’s Blog Carnival–electricity was out yesterday!)

Here they are, more other interesting blogs for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!

***

Welcome to the May 12, 2007 edition of writers from across the blogosphere.

Al Nye presents Free Anonymous Lawyer Books! posted at Al Nye The Lawyer Guy.

Al Nye presents Hundred-Dollar Baby by Robert Parker posted at Al Nye The Lawyer Guy.

articles

Susan Borgas presents Hints for Staying Focused posted at Arts & Stuff, saying, “Staying focused in your work isn’t always easy, especially if there is a daunting amount of work to do over a period of a year and the next and so on. Time management is so important to stay focused on what needs to be done. This is how I try to stay focused and for the most part it does work.”

Rajesh.P.I presents Train journeys posted at Rail Magic, saying, “Travelling by train is the best way to capture the soul of India…”

blogs

LaShawn M. Wanak presents Adventures in Potty Training, Prelude (or Thoughts of the ?Chair? again?) posted at The Cafe in the Woods, saying, “Come to the Cafe to see LaShawn’s musings on life, writing, and how to write the world’s greatest epic fantasy in the time a two-year-old takes a nap.”

Robinson Go presents Robinson Go dot Com » Blog Archive » What is a blog? posted at Robinson Go dot Com, saying, “This is my first post for a free blogging series that will help bloggers achieve excellence in blogging online.”

Rajesh.P.I presents Waiting for the Monsoon… posted at open windows, saying, “Like waiting for a beloved, I am waiting for the Monsoon to arrive…”

life

Damian (EnglishBard) presents The holy man on the train. posted at be the change – tread the path.

John Crenshaw presents The One Idea That Took 23 Years To Understand And Changed My Life Forever posted at Dominate Your Life, saying, “There’s one path on the way to meet your goals, and it’s disappearing behind you; there’s nowhere to go but forward, there’s no other option but to succeed.”

philosophy

Sudhanshu presents Gyaan Sutra: The rant of the entrepreneur posted at Gyaan Sutra.

politics/current events

Steven Silvers presents Memo to U.S. news media: Please remember to refer to the head of any government office as a Czar. posted at Scatterbox at stevensilvers.com, saying, “Because it’s the news media’s job to help Americans understand important news about their government, that’s why.”

writing

Mr. Besilly presents Ideas Are Like Rabbits posted at Mr. Besilly – One Man’s highway, saying, “I will always be a recovering idea guy. Creative ideas are the life blood that keeps me forever young. The most difficult part of having new ideas is knowing which ones to cultivate and which ones should be pushed aside.”

Laura Spencer presents Compelling Copy–What is It? How to Get It. posted at WritingThoughts, saying, “Do you ever wonder why you are drawn to some writing, while other writing barely holds your interest? This post explores some of the components of compelling copy.”

Mr Edward Bison presents Mr Bison’s Journal: Toilet Joy posted at Mr Bison’s Journal, saying, “Mr Bison’s Journal
The blog of a freelance writer. Allegedly humorous.”

Wakish presents Wakish Wonderz » Writing posted at Wakish Wonderz, saying, “Why you should write! Get inspired!”

Wakish presents Wakish Wonderz » How to write good english posted at Wakish Wonderz, saying, “A must for any who wants to write good english or any other language..”

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of
writers from across the blogosphere
using our
carnival submission form.
Past posts and future hosts can be found on our

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I am finishing up the sixth draft of my new novel, Reply All. It’s hard, hard going. I am sending it to new brand-new readers, but at the same time not giving my three beloved crit partners any break. I’m at the point where sometimes I read it and I think, “Wow, this is so good. How could I have written it,” and then half an hour later, I read it again, and think, “God, does this suck.” I am pretty pleased with the first 50 pages, I have to say.
And now what I am doing a lot of is catching those bits that come out of the ether while I’m driving, or cooking, or sitting in the backyard watching the dogs romp. Grabbing them and putting them where they belong. These are the best bits, the true ones, the ones that aren’t darlings to slay, but actually right and proper. Those doomed darlings are always the ones I write in cold blood rather than hear while I’m not trying. Everyone I manage to wrestle out of the air and onto the page makes it a better novel.
And I have worked harder and longer (again with lots of help from writing partners) on the query than I have ever before worked on one, even sending it through the Agent X hook contest. I am truly hoping this–my eighth completed novel–will be the one to break through and be first agented (if I get a new agent, it will be my third) and then published.
As you all know, this writing life is long and hard, and frustrating, and discouraging. But it’s also intoxicating on rare occasions. But whether I’m high or low, I have to write. Can’t not. It saves my soul.
So wish me luck. And I wish every writer reading this boatloads of luck as well. We need it. But it better find us working.

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Welcome to the April 28, 2007 edition of writers from across the blogosphere.

books

Jorge Goyco presents How to Befriend a Butterfly posted at Stories From Papi, saying, “A cute little story about a Butterfly who wants to get inside Hedgehog’s house.”

life

Hueina Su presents Life Balance Lessons: 7 Keys to Avoid Burnout posted at Intensive Care for the Nurturer’s Soul, saying, “Chronic stress from work could lead to burnout, which would greatly impact a person’s physical & emotional health, relationships, work, and everyone related to him/her. When you are burned out, you can’t function at your best, and everyone you care about suffer with you. It’s not difficult to see that there is much at stake. Here are some proactive steps you can take today to prevent burnout and return to balance.”

politics/current events

Cynthia McKenna, LPC, NCC presents Students and Faculty are killed at Virginia Tech – info on Post Traumatic Stress posted at CounselingBlog.

Koranteng Ofosu-Amaah presents Excellent Discussions posted at Koranteng’s Toli, saying, “a play featuring He of The Little Green Book. Ionesco lives!”

publishing

Elizabeth Wrobel presents Little Cottage in the Northwoods » The Secrets of Getting Published posted at Little Cottage in the Northwoods (A Writer’s Paradise).

writing

EelKat presents What Does Non-Genre Mean? posted at EK’s Star Log.

Heather Truett presents Pretty Much Insane posted at Madame Rubies.

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of
writers from across the blogosphere
using our
carnival submission form.
Past posts and future hosts can be found on our

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For those of you that missed the two-part inteview with Lauren Baratz-Logsted, here it is in its entirety! Lauren has some wonderful insights on writing and navigating the waters of the publishing industry.

You can visit her website at http://www.laurenbaratzlogsted.com, as well as her myspace page at http://www.myspace.com/laurenbaratzlogsted.

*****

Lauren Baratz-Logsted is the author of several novels including How Nancy Drew Saved My Life. She is also the editor of the critically acclaimed This is Chick-Lit, a response to the collection This is NOT Chick-Lit.

Other critically acclaimed books include Vertigo (Bantam), which has been called an “erotic literary thriller” and Angel’s Choice (Simon and Schuster), her first YA novel.

(Click the books to purchase)
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In this two-part interview Lauren discusses her recent work as well as her journey to becoming a published author. She offers insight into navigating the sometimes choppy waters of the publishing industry and gives authors tips on how to build a successful career.

Sit back, relax, and enjoy:

Interview with Lauren Baratz-Logsted

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NG: You started writing when you were twelve. Can you tell us a little about how you started and why you continued to write?

Lauren: My English teacher gave us an assignment to write a story using three seemingly unconnected characters: a priest, a nurse, and a camel. I wrote a torrid Thorn Birds type of story where they were stuck on a desert isle, the camel was injured, and the priest fell in love with the nurse, renouncing his vows and grabbing her in a clinch as the camel was airlifted to safety in a helicopter. I guess my teacher liked it because he made the class listen to it three days running. This probably made the other students hate me a bit by that third day, but it was the first glimmering I had that maybe I could tell stories people wanted to hear. I guess that’s why I still write: I have stories to tell and, at least so far, people want to hear them.

NG: What is one thing people should know about your work?

Lauren: That each book is different, whether in voice or theme. The Thin Pink Line (contemporary comedy about a whacky woman faking a pregnancy); Vertigo (Victorian erotic suspense about the negative effects of a claustrophobic society); Angel’s Choice (contemporary serious Young Adult novel about teen pregnancy) – just to name three. The only thing they have in common is they have the same author’s name on each spine.

NG: Do you have any upcoming projects in the works?

Lauren: As far as I know I have two books coming out in 2007: my next comedy for adults, Baby Needs a New Pair of Jimmy Choos, about a window washer who suffers from having an addictive personality; and my second YA, currently called Hailing My Life, about a girl whose novelist mother is crushed to death by a stack of Harry Potter books, so her father moves them to CT where she becomes embroiled in a mystery involving on an online sex predator. In 2008 I’ll have my first tween book out about a 12-year-old who is conflicted about her gorgeous breasts.

NG: Both you and your spouse are writers. Has being in the same profession added to the quality of your relationship?

Lauren: Absolutely. For years we’ve had a six-member group of writers that meets around our table one night a week to share our work and drink wine. He’s been very supportive of my career and, I swear, I’m more excited about his first published book coming out in 2008 than I have been for any of mine. It’s called Sock Puppets in Love. It’s about a thirteen-year-old boy whose father died the previous semester and whose gorgeous new English teacher has now set her eye on him. Greg and I also used to wash windows together in his window-washing business, so there’s that too.

NG: Your novel, Vertigo, is set at the turn of the 20th century. Being that it’s a period piece, how have readers so far related to the story and characters presented in the book?

Lauren: The response has been extremely positive. The Boston Globe compared it favorably to the work of British best-selling suspense writer Ruth Rendell – be still, my heart! – and readers keep writing to ask for a sequel. What writer can ask for more?

NG: You edited and contributed to an anthology called This is Chick-Lit. How has the backlash against the chick-lit label influenced your writing and marketing efforts?

Lauren: It’s made me feel almost militantly protective of Chick-Lit; that’s said with a smile, by the way. Having been in this business for nearly 24 years – first as a bookseller, then as a reviewer and editor, now as a published author – I’ve never seen any other genre consistently swiped at the way Chick-Lit is. Like any genre, or literary fiction, Chick-Lit has its great books, its so-so books and its lousy books. I don’t know that it’s affected my marketing generally, though. My two most recent books, Vertigo (the Victorian literary suspense novel), and Angel’s Choice (the serious YA) aren’t Chick-Lit at all. And it’s never influenced my writing. I write the stories I want to write, with all my many voices, and leave it to publishers to decide how to position the individual books.

NG: How difficult was it for you to publish your first book?

Lauren: Very! I left my day job as an independent bookseller in 1994. It took me nearly eight years to sell a book and the first book I sold was actually the sixth I’d written. But when I hit, it was sweet. The Thin Pink Line was sold as part of a two-book deal, was published in 10 countries, and I’ve had six more books published since with more to come.

NG: What pitfalls have you managed to overcome and how would you advise other authors to steer clear of the same?

Lauren: Every path is different. I guess the thing that’s hindered me the most have been the times I’ve signed with agents who failed to further my career. But how can you advise others against that? They were all reputable agents with many successes to their names; they just weren’t the right agents for me. I would also tell authors to stop and think before posting things on the Internet. I’m 44 and am fully aware of the potential negative consequences of speaking my mind in public. And I do speak my mind. But every now and then I’ll stumble across some writer mouthing off in cyberspace and for whatever reason my radar goes up and I realize this person has no idea what kind of negatives they’re racking up.

NG: What would you tell writers that are just starting out and don’t know much about getting a book published?

Lauren: That knowledge is power, every step of the way. And the best place I know on the Web to gain knowledge and network is Backspace. It’s a community of 400+ writers and publishing professionals. I wish there had been such a thing when I was first starting out. There is a small yearly subscription fee but it’s well worth it for anyone serious about a career in writing. Oh, and my other big advice? Read, read, read. You have no idea how many people I meet who want to be writers and then tell me they don’t have time to read. To me, that’s like wanting to be a surgeon and refusing to take science.

NG: As a writer, what have been some of your most memorable experiences in the industry, good and bad?

Lauren: Bad first: When Princess Diana died just after I’d started submitting an alternate-universe romantic comedy I’d written called Falling for Prince Charles. A month after her death, a VP at one of the biggest publishing houses in the country called to tell me she loved my book and that she couldn’t buy it, that nobody could. A year’s worth of my life and my work, and it was unpublishable. Best? I guess I’ll stick with the royalty theme. The editor who worked on The Thin Pink Line heard Fergie, the Princess of York, was coming to NY to pitch a possible book project and that they’d be having lunch, so she brought my book along as a present figuring Fergie would like it. I have no idea if she ever read it – it probably wound up in the trash – but it’s fun to think someone famous might actually read one of my humble efforts.

NG: Any thing else you would like to add for would-be authors?

Lauren: It’s always the same from me. Stay alive, keep putting one writing foot in front of the other, and always remember: the only person who can ever really take you out of the game is you.

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I hope you found some useful insights for your writing and publishing endeavors!

Lauren Baratz-Logsted: http://www.laurenbaratzlogsted.com
Nancy O. Greene: http://www.portraits.bravehost.com

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How important is the first line of a novel, especially an unsold novel that’s going out to agents in a few weeks?

Here are the first lines of some of the books I’ve read this year:

Esther Crummey foresaw the accident as it unfolded.” The Fugitive Wife by Peter C. Brown

“FOR more than two hundred years, the Owens women have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong in town.” Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman

“Be careful what you wish for. I know that for a fact. Wishes are brutal, unforgiving things,” The Ice Queen, Alice Hoffman.

“THE WEEK BEFORE I left my family and Florida and the rest of my minor life to go to boarding school in Alabama, my mother insisted on throwing me a going-away party.” Looking for Alaska, John Greene

“I write this sitting in the sink.” I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith

“Mom, you’ve been fighting again.” Blood and Chocolate, Annette Curtis Klause

“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” Gee, wonder who?

When I started revising my WIP this past weekend, I was shocked by how bad my first paragraph sucked. My limping first line is, “Robert Reilly tried to empty his mind.” I say this with my face literally burning with embarrassment. Pu-leeze. It’s in the same dank category as, “Susie swam up out of a deep sleep.” Talk about wanting to make your reader put the book down to catch some zzzs.

And I’ve got so much to work with. Robert’s a Nashville session player, and is doing a sound check on his dobro. A dobro is a variety of resonating, “steel” or “slide” guitar used by bluegrass and blues guitarists. A quick morning of research and I found the following cool facts. Slides made of wine bottles make the sound “weepier” and richer. Metal slides give a “sharper” tone. “Bent” or “blue” notes are made by pulling the slide up 1/4 or 1/2 above or below the fret and then you “bend and vibrate” the string with the slide to get the vibrato “that makes slide guitar so haunting.” The old black blues men used knives for slides and Blind Willie Johnson is said to have used a straight razor. And there’s debate about whether you can play steel guitar with “naked fingers.” Traditional bluegrass uses a squareneck steel guitar played with three picks on the right hand (thumb, index, middle) and the slide in the right, on the pinkie, ring or middle finger.  Blues musicians more often use a bottleneck version, which can be played in a traditional position. Squareneck dobros are played either in the lap or hanging horizontally from the neck. Steel resonating guitars, like dobros, were invented for volume—to be “the loudest, shiniest, funkiest.” There’s a lot there to work with. All the way through the novel as Robert moves from being controlled, cautious and wary to being more courageous, exuberant and risk tolerant.

So, first lines suggestions anyone? Tales of your own first line horrors?

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