What Did You Learn?

March 4, 2010

Getting Published: It’s All In The Tone

Filed under: Getting Published — Tags: , — ax20 @ 11:08 pm

You know how people say “it’s not whether you win or lose but how you play the game” and “it’s not what you say but how you say it.” There’s a reason those are old sayings. They are very true. The how is extremely important.

We got a submission at work where the idea sounded like it had merit. The author, however, used his query to bash his past publishers and then write about the awesomeness that is his own writing. Needless to say, we were instantly turned off. We went on to read some of the actual manuscript because it was a slow day and we were kind of curious to see if he had the writing talent to back up his arrogance. He didn’t. He continued to make it seem like he was insulting everyone in a “you are privileged to have the opportunity to read my great work” sort of way.

In case it wasn’t obvious, we rejected his work.

Keep in mind when you are writing a query or proposal, that as much as agents and publishers need writers, you need them even more. There are a seemingly infinite number of writers and a much more limited group of agents/publishers. You want to make sure not to piss them off or insult them. No one wants to work with someone difficult and when there are tons of other authors to choose from, you could easily get your submission thrown into the garbage pile before its even opened. Don’t give them a reason to write you off. You want to make people WANT to work with you. If they like you they will feel more inclined to want to like your work.

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General Writing: Root For The Home Team

Filed under: General Writing, Genre — Tags: , — ax20 @ 10:30 pm

Sports books. This is a genre that I’ve been finding myself enjoying more and more lately. One of the nice things about them (and something that is always a huge plus for publishers) the way sports books tend to transfer well to the big screen. Think The Blind Side, Field of Dreams, Fever Pitch, Million Dollar Baby, Friday Night Lights, The Legend of Bagger Vance, Seabiscuit, Whip It, Invictus, Blue Crush, etc. While all of these movies vary in quality they all share the fact that they were adapted from a book. And these are just some of the many movies that have been made from sports books.

Think about what was particularly appealing about these movies. Was it the fact that they were about people playing sports? No. Sports was the vehicle for which a story of human triumph is told. Or if not human triumph then some other triumph. The point is, it isn’t a specific sport that makes the story. It isn’t even necessarily the fact that there is a sport. What makes the story so fantastic is the way that we connect with the characters, see them struggle and overcome the tremendous odds against them or overcome some great adversity.

Think about the Olympics this year. One of the biggest stories was Lindsey Vonn. The question of whether or not she would be able to race after her enormous crash was on everyone’s minds. And then she went and won gold in her first race. In the next three of four races she did not finish due to crashes but the big story is that she won gold despite her injury. I’m not saying she wouldn’t be a big story without that, but that is the detail that makes her not just great but inspiring.

This seems like a fairly obvious idea, but it’s easy to forget about this detail when you are thinking up a story about a great hockey player or a gymnast who medals at the Olympics. Unless you are writing a history book, it isn’t the sport that makes it great. It is, like any other story, the character, culture. The fight.

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