About Writers, editing, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op, writing technique

CO-OP ADVICE

This was originally a Facebook post but, after being accosted with some new pitches for Kickstarter, Indie Go, and others, I decided to flesh it out. Think of these as bullet points to avoid tragedy. I know I’m not really the answer man but I do, occasionally, have useful information to impart. This is for my fellow creators.

First, I cannot emphasize this enough, make sure your writer is fluent in the language you are using. “I so too saw this” and “much to the good are I doing” aren’t actual phrases in English. “Gehrn habe ich es” doesn’t work in German. I could go on but I’d rather not. And, yes, those are actual quotes. If you can’t afford an editor at least get a grammar assistance program. Grammerly may hate the Oxford comma, and can be annoyingly pedantic, but it’s still better than some of the stuff that’s been foisted into my inbox. If your pitch, or jacket cover blurb, is filled with typos, and/or bizarre grammar, the odds are heavily against you getting anyone to take you seriously. Also, just FYI, spell check is not your friend. Eye sea ewe will not get flagged.

Second, I get it that everyone has an awesome epic adventure to tell. Even so, it won’t kill you to run your basic plotline through Google to see if anyone else has told your awesome epic adventure. Your character goes back in time and becomes Jesus? Cool. It’s been done, done well, and won awards. Yours better be unique or it will pale by comparison. Or, as one author who makes goo gobs of cash told me; “Every story has been told, except yours. So tell that one.”

Third, if you plan on using some old gods to liven up your story, please make sure you know more about them than their names. There are people who do nothing but study ancient theologies and they’ll rip you a new one if you screw it up. Of course you can put your own spin on them, they’re fictional, but make it clear you’re doing so. That said, if you’re going to use gods or prophets who are currently being worshipped, tread lightly. There are three billion people who practice Islam. Making Muhammad a gangster rapper isn’t going to win you any friends.

Yes, someone did that. No, it didn’t get published.

Fourth, if your pitch requires more genres than adjectives you’re in trouble. Your Y/A sci-fi urban melodrama set in a women’s prison on Ganymede run by faeires better be purposefully funny as hell or you’re doomed.

Fifth, if your response to a Nebula winning writer (not me, not yet anyway) who offers help is “Fuck off! What do you know about anything?” you’re destined to a life stuck in your parents basement screaming at pigeons. Just FYI, I was in the library with the afore-referenced writer, whose name and picture were on the posters announcing their arrival, when this happened. They did not respond to the pigeon person and we went out for drinks instead. I was fine with that.

Sixth, if your cover art is actually someone else’s cover art, you’re an idiot. And an asshole. Yes, I have seen this happen … twice. Something tells me I haven’t seen the last of it either. Just cutting out someone’s title doesn’t make it your art. There are plenty of services out there where you can pay a tiny fee for an image. Go, invest in one. Or hire a pro. They are more cost effective than you might imagine.

Last, but certainly not least, if someone offers you help they are not offering to do all the work for you. If that’s what you want, pull out a credit card (preferably yours so no one goes to jail) and pay them.

Okay, rant over, you may now return to your regularly scheduled internet.

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10 thoughts on “CO-OP ADVICE

  1. mimispeike says:

    “Making Muhammad a gangster rapper isn’t going to win you any friends.”

    Ha! I have a small joke in my book, very small, based on the notion that muslims pray facing Mecca, that my husband insists I take out. He says we’ll have to go underground, like Rushdie. I suppose I’ll dump it in the end. I’ll have the Pope mad at me, but I claim the right to trash Catholicism, having been raised Catholic.

    The genres comment also hits a nerve. Many sides to my thing, how do I describe it?

    Liked by 4 people

    • Beyond the prudential considerations, there is something to be said for razzing one’s own current (or former) religion (or gender or profession or …) rather than somebody else’s.  Jokes with insider insight may be funnier and more thought-provoking.  For example, consider the following quote from Chief Justice John Roberts:

      I find that when I tell lawyer jokes to a mixed audience, the lawyers don’t think they’re funny and the non-lawyers don’t think they’re jokes.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Christy Moceri says:

    Good stuff. Especially the “paying people for their work” bit. I worry sometimes that people confuse critique partners with editors and take it for granted that they do the same thing, equally well. In the writing community, reciprocity – and gratitude – are key – but nothing can replace an editor. You’ve gotta temper your expectations with CPs and the work they can reasonably be expected to put into your manuscript.

    If I’m a sinner in any way, it’s having a complicated genre. My WIP is a romantic thriller, fantasy but no magic, futuristic but I wouldn’t call it sci-fi in the typical sense. I have no clue how to market it. If I had to guess, dark fantasy romance. Maybe the key is figuring out *why* your reader is into it, and marketing accordingly. There’s usually some primal need the reader wants to fulfill – what is it in your work? Just spitballing.

    Liked by 3 people

    • GD Deckard says:

      I agree, “the key is figuring out *why* your reader is into it, and marketing accordingly.” I understand genre is a sorting tool for readers. But with eleventy-million books out there, so what? Better to reach out to readers who share an interest in your themes.

      Like

  3. mimispeike says:

    In the case of those with a story that is not neatly categorized, it might be best to do something like this:

    A wise-guy, big-mouth cat is the ultimate fixer in a sixteenth century Europe you won’t find in the history books. A screwball tale: Kurt Vonnegut meets Tristram Shandy meets a Puss in Boots (you guessed it, right?) you’ve not previously encountered.

    Tags: Screwball – Adventure – Vonnegut (why the hell not?) – Cat Fantasy. Something on that order.

    Does Amazon, with all their stretching-the-chewing-gum sub-categories, have one for faux-historical cat fantasy? I’d make number one there for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. DocTom says:

    Hello All, It’s been a while, but I couldn’t resist this. GD, did someone tick you off with a submission?

    Of course, everything you say is true. Being a veteran of Book Country and Bookkus I’ve read my share of downright horrible ms’s. Also, teaching a technical writing course also adds to the joy (I’ve had students describe the ‘Leaning Tower of Pizza’ and the ‘Union of Soviet Socialist Republicans’).

    I might add a word of caution about hiring line editors – they simply do what you ask them to. My daughter worked for a while as a line editor through the Online Book Club. She stopped because she got tired of putting crap into readable English (not the writing, but the story itself). As she put it, “I get $500 to make sure the grammar, spelling and punctuation is all correct. So when I’m done I send back a technically well written piece of crap that no one in their right mind would ever bother reading.”
    In other words, you might give your 1987 Yugo a new paint job and high gloss wax finish, but it’s still junk.

    So try to get an honest opinion (not from Mom or your significant other) about the story before you put down your hard-earned cash for a line editor.

    I might also add that the not taking of advice often just comes down to ego over-ruling intelligence. I knew a fellow with a Ph.D. who submitted a grant proposal to the NSF for a couple hundred grand. The review committee rejected it because they saw some problems in the experimental design. One of the reviewers contacted the fellow who wrote the proposal and told him there was one major problem, and how he could fix it, and if he did it the grant would be approved. The guy considered the advice, decided he didn’t agree and resubmitted with no changes. Guess what? He never got funded.

    Let me leave you with one other tidbit from the stupid file. A fellow applying for a job decided it would be a big plus if he could show that he was bilingual. So he submitted his resume in Klingon. Now I know Klingon has taken off as a fun thing to speak, but guess what? He didn’t get the job.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Peter Thomson says:

    Just read “The Rabbit Hole”, and the first thing I noticed, apart from the general excellence of the stories themselves, was that the writing was, in its various styles, fluent and free from grammatical error. As a veteran of the slush piles I can say this is rare, and counts for a lot.

    Liked by 3 people

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