Thursday, January 26, 2006

Part 3 -- Top Ten Things Editors Want

This is the last in a series of hints offered by Raelene Gorlinsky, publisher of Ellora's Cave, regarding the ten things her editors look for in a submitted manuscript.

We start tonight with #8. The bolded copy is Raelene's material. The rest is mine.

8. Intriguing and believable plot, no major holes, no "and a miracle occurred" resolutions.
"Believable" is subjective. I think it was Stephen King who once said that readers will suspend their disbelief ONE time in a single book. It can be a really big suspension of disbelief, but you can only get away with it once. Don't keep asking your readers to accept the unbelievable over and over.

A caveat here. This doesn't mean you can't "world build." You can create an entire world based on vampires, werewolves and ghosts and count that as one suspension of disbelief. As long as you create rules for that world and remain consistent to your rules, you're fine. On my website under "Links," I have a link to Patricia Wrede's questions to ask when you are world-building.

For heaven's sake, make sure you address all your loose ends. Don't leave one hanging so that the reader is going, "What the devil!" Of course, if you're planning a series, you can have small questions remain, but not something that will aggravate the reader.

If you're a reader of Miss Snark, you know that she talks about hating to find aliens suddenly arriving in Chapter Fourteen. If you have not done the "set-up" for aliens, you're going to tick your readers off when the aliens suddenly arrive in Chapter Fourteen. You can foreshadow and set the stage and then have them arrive, but you can't simply trot them out in Chapter Fourteen.

9. Originality: not the same plot elements and character types I can
find in a hundred books on the store shelves right now.

We all know that once a certain book becomes wildly popular, dozens of new books on the same theme quickly follow. Remember Harry Potter was followed by Artemis Fowl, His Dark Materials, etc. And, of course, the DaVinci Code was followed by dozens of knock-offs based on religious conspiracies.

If you're going to use a tried-and-true theme (vampires, werewolves, etc.), make sure you put a new spin on it. Do something different. Editors get tired of reading the-same-old-same-old over and over again.

10. Clear POV, no head hopping.
Nothing will mark you as inexperienced faster than head hopping. Point-of-View (POV) refers to how the reader "sees" the scene. Whose point-of-view does the reader take? Is the reader inside the detective's head or inside the heroine's head or is the reader seeing the scene through the villain's eyes?

The rule of thumb is that you should have only one POV in a scene. Whose POV you choose should depend on who has the most to gain or lose in that scene. Once you select a point of view, don't head hop. Don't describe what is happening from one person's POV and suddenly move into another character's POV. It is jarring for the reader.

If you are in a character's POV, you can ONLY know what that character knew at that point in the manuscript. The detective can't know it's raining outside unless he just came in from the rain, can see out a window or hear the rain on the roof.

Some writers violate this rule, but they do it so skillfully, the reader doesn't notice and isn't jarred by it. The name that comes immediately to my mind is romance author, Nora Roberts. Keep in mind she is famous and has written over 150 novels. She can get away with head hopping--you can't.

Well, there you have it, Raelene's top ten things editors are looking for.

Happy writing!


Karen said...

These tips have been so helpful! Thanks Maya.

And - you've been tagged, to commit a Random Act of Kindness. Pass it on!

Maya said...

Thanks for passing the torch of kindness. I'll do my best to do a good job in handing it off.