Thursday, July 9, 2009
The Hesitation Waltz by Morgan Mandel
I hoof it to the commuter train station each workday. A few weeks ago, a driver pulled what I call the Hesitation Waltz. He slowed down a fraction, then waltzed straight through. He not only didn't stop at the sign, but he also denied me, a pedestrian, the right of way. I was prepared for this since it's happened before. When I see a car approach a stop sign, I don't assume it will stop for me. I don't step into the street.
Now, let's relate this to the writing world. Do you waltz right through when you prepare or submit a manuscript? Can you get away with it? Usually not. Most editors are one step ahead of you.
Let's see. If you submit a manuscript to a publishing house without checking which editor acquires your genre, by a strange stroke of luck it might reach the right destination. I wouldn't count on it. Chances are, instead of landing where you hoped, it will end up in the dreaded slush pile or, worse yet, get returned immediately.
Another scenario - You dash off a manuscript and submit it without the format specified by the publishing house, or without carefully edited grammar, punctuation, etc. After all, your story is so wonderful it will be accepted and brushed up by the editor at the publishing house. Isn't that what editors do? Wrong. Most editors are so busy they're looking for manuscripts as close to perfect as possible. Unless you're a celebrity or have come up with a terrific idea that's never been written about before, you'll likely get rejected.
Another sticky little thing you may not want to do - research. You're writing fiction, so it doesn't have to make complete sense, right? Wrong again. Unless you've carefully constructed a make believe world and laid out its conventions, you still need to pay attention to how things work and why people do what they do in your novel. For instance, if you mention Chicago as the capitol of Illinois instead of Springfield, you can bet you'll lose credibility. An editor will most likely stop right there and not read further.
One last scenario - You self-publish a book without asking for help. You don't hire an editor or at the very least ask knowledgeable friends to check it over for mistakes. Even if you're an editor yourself, it doesn't hurt for an objective eye to evaluate your manuscript. Sure, your book will be published without such help, since you published it yourself. It may even get read by a few people, but if it's not up to snuff, they won't recommend it to others. Word of mouth is very powerful. You certainly don't want word to get out that you're an amateur and your books are not worth reading.
On the subject of editors, you have a choice of many fine editors right here at this blogspot. You can check out their bios and credentials in the right hand column. I chose Helen Ginger to do the edits on my upcoming release, Killer Career. She did a fantastic job. As a result, I'm much more confident about presenting it to the public. You'll learn more about the process in future blogs here.
Right now, I don't want to stray too far from the subject at hand, which is the Hesitation Waltz. Do you know of any other harmful shortcuts writers use? If so, please share them with us.