So There Really Was a LARARWA Meeting…

November 28, 2011

I promised to tell you all about the presentation Jennifer Miller/Jennifer Haymore gave on Deep Editing at the November 20 meeting of LARARWA. Yes, between the Torrential Downpour and car trouble…then car trouble, Torrential Downpour, lunch and shopping, followed by more car trouble, Torrential Downpour, long scary drive on surface streets from The Valley through Los Angeles with more shopping, power outage, still car trouble, and Torrential Downpour as we drove home to San Pedro, which was falling into the ocean (this really happened)…there was actually a meeting. (Wow, I think I just condensed my entire post from last Wednesday into one very, very long run on sentence! Who knew?)

Anyway, Jennifer Miller is an editor with Samhain, who also writes under the name Jennifer Haymore. She relates to both sides of the process. As an editor, she reads, rejects and acquires submissions and as an author she pours out her heart, receives edits and has the same goals and dreams that most of us who put pen to paper have, to tell a story and have it read.

I’m sure that what you really want to know is what makes an editor who is also a published author reject a manuscript. According to Jennifer, sometimes it’s as simple as, she can only acquire so many manuscripts. Today she may be looking for a sci-fi thriller and your manuscript is a steampunk paranormal with a touch of romance, so even though she loved your story and your style, she sends you a rejection letter.

But, what if she is looking for a steampunk paranormal with romantic elements, and your manuscript, a steampunk paranormal with romantic elements, comes to the top of the pile? She reads your query and moves on to your story, but what does your story have to have to get the call?

The first thing is pretty basic. We all know that we need to hook the reader in the first few lines if we want them to continue reading. An editor needs to be hooked in the first few sentences as well, and there are a number of things she will be looking for. At the top of Jennifer’s list are believability and characterization.

Is your story believable and logical? The reader must believe it, or at least believe that it’s possible in the world you created. Is your world building believable? Is it solid? Does it make sense? And your characters must be believable.

Beyond believable, your characters must be relatable. They don’t have to be likeable, but the reader must be able to relate to them. Characters should have clear goals, motivation and conflict. And, of course, avoid cliches. If there are cliches in your characterization (this goes for plot as well) you need to have a good twist to the cliché.

One of the things Jennifer advised, which I am going to take a hard look at today in my manuscript, is don’t be afraid of the word “said.” I’m pretty sure I avoid this word, and when author Kara Lennox critiqued my manuscript, one of her notes was “you need to work on dialogue attribution-the technical aspect…people don’t “laugh” dialogue. Woops, I was avoiding the word said.

Jennifer packed her hour-long presentation with advice on deep editing, shallow editing and some technique tricks that can enhance a writer’s work. I’ll continue my rewrites with a much better educated eye. If you get a chance to hear Jennifer Miller/Jennifer Haymore speak, don’t miss it! She is intelligent, informative and entertaining. Even hunky hubby, Paul, who is not a writer, enjoyed her presentation. He will also be reading my work with a much more educated eye.

So what about you? Are you confident that your story is believable and your characters relatable? Who would you drive through a Torrential Downpour to hear speak? (I really don’t recommend stormy travel…stay home where it’s hopefully safe and dry.)

Oh…and by the way, after last week’s Torrential Downpour (did I mention it was also freezing cold?) yesterday, it was sunny and beautiful with record breaking high temperatures. It was in the 80’s, even here along the coast…and of course, we stayed home.



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