Saturday, October 20, 2007

Raisin Bran, Cheerios or . . . The Other Serial

Nathan Bransford had a post on Thursday that should be required reading for all newbie writers.

Agent Nathan, who is always entertaining, offers solid advice on whether or not to pitch a series with your first book here.

He doesn't think it's a good idea, and he gives a very good reason as to why he believes this.

I learned this lesson two years ago under the fabulous Miss Snark. To read her take on pitching a series, go here and scroll down to the post titled "There's More Where That Came From Too!"

Although these are words I never expected to write, Nathan expands and improves upon Miss Snark's answer when he says, "...this is a fairly good distinction between professional writers and for-fun writers."

I have harbored the same opinion for some time now.

I belong to several writers' loops. Every one of them has half a dozen unpublished fantasy writers who are in the middle of Book #4 or #7 or even #9. They keep churning this stuff out, all the while nurturing the belief that one day they'll find a publisher who will buy the entire series.

If you engage them in conversation, you'll invariably learn that the series began when they were told their first book was too long at 223,479 words.

Rather than do what a professional writer would do . . . go in and edit out 120,000 words . . . they opted to break the magnum opus into three novels--the beginning of the series.

Do you really need me to tell you what a staggeringly bad idea this is?

First of all, if there ever was a plot arc, the writer has disrupted it. Second, the books no longer stand alone. Anyone reading the first one is going to be denied a satisfying conclusion. Third . . . and I'm sorry, I can't help myself . . . it's just stupid.

Early on, I actually agreed to read one of these manuscripts only to discover the author had been almost horrifyingly self-indulgent. Under the guise of dialogue, he included pages of political rants as well as pointless scenes that served no purpose beyond showcasing what the author believed to be a particularly good description of a character or place.

Worst of all, like the Perils of Pauline films, the manuscript ended on what the writer believed was a cliffhanger. After reading a rambling, boring 70K words, there was no payoff. It took everything I had not to smash my laptop's screen.

So, go read Nathan's post and commit his words to memory.


Maria Zannini said...

I try to be upfront when I'm faced with reviewing these sprawling novels, but I have yet to meet a single such author who doesn't come back and tell me I'm wrong because HIS work is different and will sell.


I'm not out to burst his bubble. I just want him to realize what he's in for.

Maya Reynolds said...

Maria: I agree. The writers of these manuscripts steadfastly refuse to consider any other alternative, which *I guess* is why Nathan describes them as "for fun" writers rather than professional writers.