Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Reading the Cloud

September 3rd, 2015 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

Publishing & Technology: Reading the Cloud

Brian Tibbetts is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Wednesday, Brian posts about trends in the publishing industry and developments in technology that impact the industry. You can find him on Twitter @BRIANRTIBBETTS

This week in Publishing & Technology we’ll be talking about e-readers, cloud-based computing, mobile apps, and the Fabrik cloud e-book reader.

When I recently broadened my role with MacGregor Literary, from exclusively dealing in translation and other subsidiary rights to representing new works for publication (for clarity’s sake, I am not open to unsolicited manuscripts at this time), my reading for work increased exponentially. Initially, I was content with reading manuscripts directly on my laptop. But, over time this became an issue as more and more of my time was spent in the office “working.” And less and less “relaxing” with my family. I solved the problem by borrowing a rarely used Kindle from a friend and downloading my work reading as PDFs onto the device. I could then “relax” with the family, while “working.” For some reason the change in device represented a change in my behavior to the observers (who spend half of their time exhibiting second-screen behavior of their own). I have been happy with Kindle, but my friend has been making noises about wanting it back soon for an extended trip out of state, so I find myself with a problem.

Recently, I finally broke my iPhone4. And, while perusing the available upgrades at my mobile provider, I was enticed with a bundled deal that would allow me to also pick up an Android-based tablet for very little extra money. So, I dove into the internet and began looking up Android-based e-reader apps in the hopes that I might find something that mirrored the features of the Kindle that I enjoyed while being compatible with the tablet that I haven’t necessarily committed to purchasing yet.

While reading through Android Authority’s 15 Best eBook reader Android Apps article, I happened upon the Fabrik cloud-based e-reader app, which also appears on several top lists for 2015 Android apps. Initially, cloud-compatibility wasn’t even on my list of considerations in looking for an e-reader or e-reader application. But, the more I think about it, and the more I examine the price differences between smartphones and tablets that seem completely based on the amount of storage available on the various devices, the more cloud-based reading seems like more of an inevitability than a convenient option. I may be too old to ever completely trust the cloud with my music collection, family photos, or books. But for manuscripts that may never see publication and books in which I am interested enough to read, but perhaps not to keep, it may be the next big thing to push me toward the sky.

You’re Getting Sleepy, Very Sleepy

August 26th, 2015 | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Publishing & Technology: You are Getting Sleepy, Very Sleepy

Brian Tibbetts is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Wednesday, Brian posts about trends in the publishing industry and developments in technology that impact the industry. You can find him on Twitter @BRIANRTIBBETTS

This week in Publishing & Technology we’ll be talking about the practice of incorporating psychological techniques into children’s books to help children with a variety of emotional, behavioral, and other problems. Yesterday, the Smithsonian published a piece on its website called Six Children’s Books That Use Psychological Techniques to Help Kids. In the article, Smithsonian writer Emily Matcher takes a quick look at The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep and five other books that use suggestions, cues, hypnosis and other techniques to facilitate a variety of reactions in children. Whether it’s going to sleep in the case of the Amazon best-selling self-published title that begins the article, working through PTSD with A Terrible Thing Happened, getting help with anger management with Calm Down Time or Angry Octopus, or dealing with stress by reading Ladybird’s Remarkable Relaxation, all of these titles employ a kind of embedded technology to produce a desired effect. The other thing that all these titles have in common is that they are selling well. The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep is currently Amazon’s number one best seller. I find this infuriating for two reasons: First of all, where was this book when my children were young enough that they needed help falling asleep (as opposed to help getting out of bed at a reasonable hour). And secondly, given that haptic interaction is one of the key qualities missing from the experience of reading digitally delivered text, one wonders if electronic publishing could learn something from the success of these titles regarding the idea of embedding technology in the reading experience to deliver an enhanced result for consumers of digitally delivered text. I’m not entirely sure what something like that might look or sound like, but if the mobile phone and video console companies can do it, what’s stopping the manufacturers of e-readers?

Freeping the Hugos

August 20th, 2015 | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Publishing & Technology: Freeping the Hugos

Brian Tibbetts is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Wednesday, Brian posts about trends in the publishing industry and developments in technology that impact the industry. You can find him on Twitter @BRIANRTIBBETTS

This week in Publishing & Technology we’ll be discussing the upcoming Hugo Awards, freeping, and literary awards in general. This weekend in the seventy-third annual World Science Fiction Convention comes to Spokane, Washington, bringing with it the annual Hugo Awards ceremony, with all the pomp and circumstance one might expect from an awards ceremony. But this year, the awards are somewhat embroiled in a bit of controversy. It seems that a fringe group of conservative sci-fi writers and fans was able to freep (stack the poll results with a swarm of votes) the nomination process for the Hugos and secure nominations for a group of like-minded writers. For an in-depth article on the controversy, click here.

The first question that comes to mind is, “why?” Why would anyone, much less a whole group of people, devote their time and energy to so seemingly pointless an exercise? Are the conservative minority so offended by the ongoing swell of social consciousness invading their beloved genre? Or have they been angry since say 1956, when Heinlein’s thinly-veiled social commentary Double Star won the Hugo for Best Novel? Or are they just angry because authors who don’t look like them (white men) are getting good work published in the genre that is selling and winning awards?

Regardless of the point of the freeping of the Hugos, I’m led to question the value of the awards in general. Are they truly “prestigious”? Do readers “looking for a good science-fiction or fantasy book…look for the distinctive rocket ship logo of the Hugo Award,” as recent NPR coverage claims? I’ve heard that booksellers may be swayed by a titles status as award-winning, and I’ve witnessed firsthand the power an award can have on the translation rights sales process. But, do readers actually care or pay attention to awards?

Tiny Bubbles, in the Blood

August 13th, 2015 | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Publishing & Technology: Tiny Bubbles, in the Blood

Brian Tibbetts is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Wednesday, Brian posts about trends in the publishing industry and developments in technology that impact the industry. You can find him on Twitter @BRIANRTIBBETTS

This week in Publishing & Technology I’m not writing about technology. I’ve just come off my first appearance as an agent at the venerable Willamette Writer’s Conference and, though I had an excellent time hanging out with writers and other industry professionals, I’m afraid that I’m just too mentally exhausted to do any meaningful research into what is happening in publishing at the moment. It’s as if I was deep, deep in the ocean, under the relentless pressure of a six eight-minute pitches an hour, every hour, from nine in the morning to five in the evening for three days straight, and after all that, I came up for air too fast and developed a case of what feels like the bends.

I know, if I were still working for a living (and I mean with a shovel), I’d probably scoff at the idea of being exhausted after three days at a writing conference. But, I’m not lying when I say that it can be completely tiring hanging out with several hundred introverts all doing their best to be extroverted enough to sell their work to agents, editors, and the like. And to have so many of them pay to sit in front of me and try valiantly to explain their plots and characters and platforms was both disheartening and absolutely beautiful at the same time. The least I can do to honor their courage is to offer up one little insight that I have for authors as I walk away from this experience for the first time.

My one insight: Anyone that tells that there is one perfect way to pitch your novel to agents and acquiring editors is either a hopeless fool or selling something. Agents and acquiring editors are individuals. They have varying tastes, different communication styles, etc. Sure, commit a few facts about your manuscript to memory. Facts like word count, whether the manuscript is complete or not, the point of view you employ, descriptions of the setting, the protagonist, and other key characters, are all great ways to get the conversation started. But, sitting down in front of a prospective buyer and rattling off (or reading aloud) something that sounds like the VO to a bad horror movie trailer can’t possibly be helping your efforts to sell your book. Also, don’t get offended if the prospective buyer interrupts you to ask clarifying questions, etc. They want to understand what you’re talking about.

Editing for Authors: Part 4b, The Great and Powerful Style Sheet

August 12th, 2015 | The Writing Craft, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

brick green no smile b:wWelcome back to my series on editing for authors. Last week, I started to talk about the role of a style sheet in the editing process, specifically the story and character-related elements. This week, we’re looking at the craft and style-related elements of a style sheet, as well as how to use a style sheet to focus your editing.

As I said last week, style sheets are largely descriptive rather than prescriptive– in other words, your style sheet is based on the writing voice/habits that are already in evidence in your manuscript. When you’ve finished a draft of a manuscript and are ready to start editing, you want to look at your manuscript and determine which conventions you’ve used most often and which ones you want to define your voice, and build your style sheet accordingly, adding entries addressing usage, punctuation, spelling, style, and formatting questions that will arise as you edit your manuscript.

For example, if you hyphenated a word the first three or four times you used it (“birth-mother”), you would probably make the hyphenated version an entry on your style sheet, the idea being that you will use that entry as a reference by which to determine that you will alter any subsequent uses of that word where you didn’t hyphenate it. If, however, you hyphenated it the first time but then used it seven more times in the first three chapters without hyphenating it, you’d probably want to let the majority dictate your style-sheet entry, and use the non-hyphenated version as the rule to be followed on your style sheet, since, again, the goal of a style sheet is to define the elements of your style that are already in evidence in your writing and your voice so that you can ensure that they are reflected in your whole manuscript, since precious few of us write with perfect consistency throughout a 75,000-word manuscript. Use this process throughout the first several chapters to determine the “measuring stick,” based on your personal writing norms, that you’ll use for editing the remainder of the manuscript: if you use a serial comma in two out of your first three lists, make a note on your style sheet to always use the serial comma in lists, then change and all subsequent lists to reflect the style sheet; if you usually use italics-only for your first several instances of internal dialogue, add that to your style sheet and then edit all subsequent instances in which you used quotation marks and italics; etc. You get the idea. Types of entries that should be added to your style sheet as you begin to edit your manuscript include:

  • Hyphenated or compound words (e.g., “ebook” vs. e-book,” “web site” vs. “website”)
  • Rules for using numerals vs. spelling out numbers
  • Punctuation rules– serial comma, quotation marks around internal dialogue, etc.
  • Abbreviations (what words you abbreviate, what words you spell out, how abbreviations are punctuated, e.g., “US” vs. “U.S.,” etc.)
  • Intentionally stylistic but technically “wrong” or questionable usages and the exact circumstances or character where they are used (“nothin'” or “sumthin” used to evoke a dialect or a lack of education on the part of a character)
  • Dialogue formatting guidelines (“new indented line with every change of speaker”)

And all of this assumes that your personal writing norms mostly exist within the rules set by recognized authorities such as a dictionary or a common style manual or writing handbook– that you have consulted some reputable resource such as a dictionary or style manual and can defend your stylistic choices as being “correct” at least according to one authority. If I were actually using “birth mother” in manuscript, I theoretically would have done enough research to find that it’s virtually never hyphenated and my style sheet entry would reflect that. The exception to this is, of course, any grammatical or usage decisions that preserve your voice as a writer, the voice of a character, or the tone of a story– books like The Help or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or Just So Stories, in which the unusual syntax or incorrect spelling or grammar connote a dialect or level of education or tone on the part of the narrating character or the author. In these cases, the special conventions of the specific choices would then end up as entries on the style sheet to ensure consistency in the formatting and voice, such as “Contractions: never used by the narrator,” or “Civilize: spelled “sivilize” when used by Huck.”

This process of adding entries to your style sheet can be painstaking, but it’s absolutely worth it– a slow, careful read of your first several chapters during which you take the time to notice inconsistencies in spelling, punctuation, usage, or grammar and make a conscious decision about which version you’re going to use as the “correct” one going forward saves you hundreds of additional decisions/questions later in the manuscript. The more complete your style sheet, the less you have to wrestle with questions of usage and grammar and punctuation– having a style sheet entry for a word or a punctuation scenario means that every time you encounter that word or scenario, you can automatically correct it for internal consistency based on the style sheet rather than having to debate each instance throughout the length of the manuscript. The act of compiling a style sheet both trains your editorial eye to notice various types of inconsistencies throughout the manuscript and preemptively answers dozens of editing/style questions for you before you’ve encountered a tenth of them. When your book is contracted for publication and assigned to a professional editor for further editing, he or she will compile a style sheet of their own to ensure the manuscript’s adherence to the publishing house’s specific style conventions (such as always putting internal dialogue in quotation marks, or always spelling out numbers greater than ten), and there’s a chance that some of these will differ from the decisions you made, but the point of authorial editing using a style sheet is not to turn out a manuscript that is ready for publication with one specific publishing house, but to turn out a clean manuscript demonstrating consistency and strong voice that will make the best possible impression on whoever reads it. When I’m reading a manuscript, I’m not passing judgment on whether or not the author’s style conventions agree with mine at every turn, but on whether or not the whole of the document is in agreement with itself.

A style sheet is the tool a professional editor uses to ensure that your book is consistent throughout as well as conforming to the guidelines/style dictates of their particular publishing house. By compiling and using one yourself, you give yourself a valuable reference manual that can both help you identify writing and story inconsistencies within your manuscript as well as shave hours off the editing process.

I’m a Writer Because I Write

August 10th, 2015 | The Writing Craft, Uncategorized | 18 Comments

A writing friend sent me this question: “Are you a writer because of your distinctive ideas, the volume of material you produce, or because of a call or skill or gift?”

None of the above. I’m a writer because I write. It’s my venue for sharing truth and beauty and all that is important to me. It’s how I express myself. My friend Rebecca is a singer because she puts herself into her songwriting and musical performance. My buddy Brad is a doctor because that’s how he connects to the world and shares himself and his abilities. Maybe that constitutes a calling — it’s certainly a gift. But I’ve always seen books and words as a reflection of who I am. Some of us have to write, the way others have to sing or run or paint or speak or run or lead. With me, words tend to pour out.

The thing that doesn’t get talked about very much is the fact that not everybody can be a writer, and few of us can ever be great writers. I’m all for writing conferences, because I often get to meet and encourage diamonds in the rough. And I’m a big supporter of mentor/protégé relationships because they allow an experienced person to share with an inexperienced person. But I’ve come to believe there’s a limit to the talent that can be shared. I believe I can make a writer better, but I’m not convinced I can ever make a writer great — some people just have the gift. Some people can paint, some people can sing, some people can dance – we can write.

Occasionally I come across a writer whose talent is enormous, and it usually leaves me in TomRobbingsawe. I love that. At a conference this past weekend, I had a chance to host a salon with one of my favorite writers, Tom Robbins — an author whom many believe is one of the great American novelists of the past 50 years. I need to do a blog post just on his words, because he was amazing — insightful and funny and encouraging and very practical. And he didn’t need to be any of those things, since he’s one of the greats. He could have been arrogant or dismissive (um… I’ve met my share of successful authors who have forgotten how to relate to beginning writers), yet he wasn’t at all. Instead, he just shared some of his wisdom, telling the folks at the conference what he thinks is important, and what they need to consider in their writing.

For all my ego, I still appreciate someone who can do something better than me. I have represented several writers who are simply marvelous wordsmiths, and much better at writing than I’ll ever be (off the top of my head, I can name Lisa Samson, Ann Tatlock, Susan Meissner, Elizabeth Musser, Gina Holmes, Jessica Dotta, Mark Bertrand, Rachel Hauck, Mindy Clark… there are others). It doesn’t bother me one bit to know they’re better at their craft than I am – I’m just happy I get to represent their work. As a man, it doesn’t bother me that Tiger Woods is a better golfer than I’ll ever be, or that on an off day Diana Krall still has more musical talent that I could ever hope to have. And I’m at peace with that.

A couple questions for writing friends… Why do you write? And if you could sit and talk with any living writer, who would you like to chat with? 

Editing for Authors: Part 4a, Meet the Style Sheet

August 5th, 2015 | The Writing Craft, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

brick green no smile b:wContinuing my series on editing for authors, I’m talking today and next week about the role of a style sheet in the editing process and why a good style sheet can be an author-editor’s best friend.

To better understand the value of a style sheet, let’s consider first the earmarks of a well-edited manuscript. Compared to an unedited manuscript (or one that has merely been proofed for typos), the following is usually true of an edited manuscript:

  • The voice has been refined
  • Plot clarity has been improved
  • Story universe is more clearly defined
  • Pacing is more consistent
  • Syntax is tighter/cleaner
  • Word choice is more effective

Some of these qualities are dependent on the author’s experience/writing skill– it generally takes a more practiced ear to pick up on and critique things like sentence structure, weak word choice, or inconsistent pacing. Others, however, are virtually entirely dependent on good record-keeping and a disciplined adherence to the established norms– plot and character details are vivid at first because the author wrote them that way, but they stay sharp and clear in the reader’s mind because the author kept track of and stuck to the initial rules he made for that universe/character. An author’s voice is most effective when it is consistent and clear throughout rather than weakened by distractingly inconsistent usage, punctuation, spelling, or grammar. That’s where a style sheet comes in.

What is a style sheet?

Think of a style sheet as a reference tool written especially for and tailored specifically to your manuscript. Remember the APA or MLA reference books/handouts your teachers in high school or college gave you and expected you to use when writing your papers? If a teacher wanted your paper in APA style, you consulted your APA style manual to determine whether or not to use an oxford comma, how to format a quotation, which spelling of “cancelled” to use, etc. A style sheet (and don’t be confused by the name; it’s rarely a “one-sheet” document, and is often several pages long) is the reference manual you compile based on your experience with and knowledge of your story, your voice, and your writing. It helps you keep track of story details, such as characters’ physical appearance, backstory, and style of speaking, and the writing “rules” you’re following, such as which spellings you’re using of words/names, words you’re choosing to hyphenate or not, what numbers you’re spelling out versus using numerals for, etc. Once you’ve established your “official” stance on the details/rules/practices of that particular manuscript, the style sheet becomes an all-powerful oracle you can consult during editing to quickly provide direction and answers to dozens of questions and uncertainties. We’ll look this week chiefly at the components of a style sheet that speak to story– characters, plot/timeline, setting, etc.– and leave the writing/style elements of a style sheet to talk about next week.

Compiling a style sheet.

A style sheet is a living document, meaning it changes and grows as your manuscript takes shape. At the beginning of its life, a style sheet is mostly descriptive rather than prescriptive, meaning it’s simply reflecting/recording the choices you’ve already made rather than dictating your next steps. It would be exhausting and unrealistic on multiple fronts to compile a complete style sheet for a book before writing it– you would have to anticipate each and every possible scenario that could arise while writing the manuscript (“If I write the word ‘seat-belt,’ I will hyphenate it.”), know each of your characters and your setting in detail in advance (“The coffee shop that the main character will meet her birth-mother at in chapter 24 will be called “The Mud Hut,” and the furniture is orange and brown”), and then painstakingly consult the style sheet as you wrote to make sure you were following your rules. Obviously, most authors prefer to write freely and let their story pick up momentum as they go, even the ones who plan or outline their books in detail before writing them.

The difference between an outline and a style sheet is that an outline merely dictates the direction and events of the plot (“protagonist will meet her birth-mother in a coffee shop”) while a style sheet records the exact details and keystrokes (“hyphenate ‘birth-mother’ every time you write it,” “coffee shop will be decorated in orange and brown”) of a scene, usually after it’s written, for the purpose of achieving consistency throughout the remainder of the manuscript– in the case of my made-up example, the information on the outline tells the author what to write; the information on the style sheet reminds the author of what they already wrote so that they can make not to contradict themselves in additional scenes set in the coffee-shop or additional uses of the word “birth-mother.”

Because most of these tiny decisions are made in the moment, while you’re writing, it’s much easier to go back after the manuscript is complete and tweak certain scenes or details to conform to the rules/details you settled on than it is to think through every punctuation and biographic and setting and spelling decision before you put words on paper. That being the case, you want to start with the bare minimum on your style sheet– names, basic descriptive information, etc.– and add details to each entry as you reveal/establish/discover more about each character, the setting, or the events of the plot.

So what kind of info should end up on your style sheet by the time you finish your manuscript?

  • Character names, descriptions, and brief bios (as far as you know them): Think doctor’s-office-questionnaire or job-application-type info here rather than introspective psychological profiles– spelling of full name, eye color, hair color, body type, height, occupation, hometown, education, immediate family’s names and statuses (alive or dead, location, etc.), important relationships– spouses, children, etc. Obviously, you won’t know/have as much info for minor characters as for main characters, and you probably won’t have all your characters established at the beginning of the writing process.
  • Setting info: Names and spellings of towns/states/neighborhoods, if applicable, demographic information– size, population, weather, major characteristics.
  • Timeline info: The order in which things happen in your story.

By compiling this kind of information during your writing process, you can avoid conflicting descriptions of a character or setting, making sure you’re not contradicting yourself or confusing your reader. At the end of the first draft, you should have a pretty good collection of the characteristics of your major characters and setting to refer to when editing, as well as a clear timeline to refer to when examining your pacing and your clarity of exposition later in the editing process.

Next week, we’ll look at the craft/style-related elements of a style sheet and how to add them to your story/character-related elements to create a really strong style sheet, as well as how to use that style sheet to focus your editorial eye and save you hours of editing time. Thanks for reading!

 

 

Just Don’t

July 29th, 2015 | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Publishing & Technology: Just Don’t

Brian Tibbetts is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Wednesday, Brian posts about trends in the publishing industry and developments in technology that impact the industry. You can find him on Twitter @BRIANRTIBBETTS

This week in Publishing & Technology, at the risk of offending Erin (whose words of wisdom regarding author marketing and social media are far more informative than anything you will read in this post) or Chip (whose posts regarding how to approach an agent are golden) we’ll be talking about the do’s and don’ts of using social media to find, friend, and pitch to agents and editors who you normally would not have general access to. The general gist of this post is, when it comes to the do’s and don’ts of soliciting agents and editors through social media: “Just don’t do it.” If you understand why, without having it explained to you, feel free to stop reading now.

Believe me I understand the temptation. I spent many years as an author with a day job, searching for a shortcut to the big time. For years I only sent the same handful of literary short stories and novel excerpts to the top five or six magazines in the country. I was encouraged by the personalized rejections I received and redoubled my efforts to make connections with the editors who’d taken the time to scribble a few words of encouragement on their form rejections. (I still have most if not all of these rejections in a file drawer somewhere.) I tried cold calling agencies that represented authors that produced work that I aspired to. I did everything short of moving to New York and physically inserting myself into the literary scene. None of it worked, and in the years since I’ve developed a healthy appreciation for starting with smaller markets and developing my writing as I get published by incrementally larger publishers and magazines. And I’m glad that the temptation to use social media to network with people who I don’t know did not exist at the time. I can only imagine how many more people I would’ve pestered with my incessant cries for attention. This brings me to the point: if someone in the publishing business that you don’t know is open enough to connect with you on LinkedIn, or Facebook, or Instagram, or whatever, don’t immediately take it as an opportunity to pitch them. If they accept unsolicited queries or manuscripts through normal channels, use them. And if they don’t, just don’t.

Editing for Authors: Part 3, Turning on the Editing Eye

July 29th, 2015 | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

brick green no smile b:wWelcome back to my series on editing for authors. This week, I’m talking more about ways to develop the right perspective for editing.

I wrote last week about the difference between the up-close-and-personal nature of the writing perspective and the more objective, big-picture mindset needed to be an effective editor. Obviously, it can be difficult to approach your own work objectively, especially if you have strong emotional ties to the material, and as I said last week, time is the best way to gain that emotional and intellectual distance from your work– you’re much more likely to see the weaknesses in your work after letting the initial writer-high die down.

But what if you still struggle with objective, big-picture thinking even after letting your manuscript sit for days/weeks/months?  How much time should you let pass, realistically, in the hope that you’ll wake up one day with a completely different perspective on your work? Truth be told, some authors will always struggle with finding the right perspective from which to edit their work, no matter how much time passes, but the good news is that there are other ways to help train yourself to approach your work like an editor rather than a writer.

Cleanse Your Palate.

If you have any experience on the fine dining scene, you’ve probably had meals at which a palate-cleanser was served between courses– a beverage or a sorbet intended to rid your mouth of any lingering flavors from one course before another was served so that the next course wasn’t “tainted” by leftover, clashing flavors. Obviously, if you waited a day between courses, all traces of one course would disappear from your mouth before you tasted the next one, but a palate-cleanser lets you enjoy the flavors of two dissimilar courses to the fullest without having to spread your meal out over three days. In the same way, you can cleanse your editorial “palate” by applying your attention to a completely dissimilar or neutral project in between writing and editing, and perhaps even gain a better editorial perspective than you would have by merely letting time pass.

For some, this can be as simple as reading a book, either something totally different from what you wrote so as to really get your head out of your story world, or something similar in genre/tone so as to help you start to develop an eye for pacing/story development in your own story. Others prefer to palate-cleanse by writing something “neutral,” such as a couple of blog posts or a journal entry or a long email to a friend– something with an entirely different voice and goal from your work-in-progress. Some find it extremely helpful to edit someone else’s work in the interim between writing and editing– this allows you to start thinking critically and globally right away because you don’t have any personal connections or bias to overcome. The hope behind using one of these strategies is that it will help to kick-start your editing mindset rather than just letting time pass and hoping for the best.

Learn From Your Past.

We all know the saying about how if you don’t learn from the past, you are doomed to repeat it. Even if you don’t have a natural knack for editing, you have learned from reader feedback, critique partners, and manuscript clinics (if you’ve been writing for awhile) what areas tend to give you trouble, what weaknesses show up repeatedly, what you’ve had to work on the most, etc. Your previous problems can provide an excellent starting point for your editing process. Where your own “editorial eye” might not have looked at your work-in-progress and seen a pacing problem or cliche word choices, your past work is a map telling you exactly where to start looking for similar problems, and once you know what you’re looking for, you presumably have some experience fixing it (from applying all those earlier critiques to your earlier work). So, consider starting every editing process by looking back over your last three or four manuscripts and reminding yourself of their weaknesses/oft-critiqued elements (or even by re-reading them yourself and seeing what annoys you now that you are an older and wiser writer) and making a style sheet (more about this tool next week) to use as a jumping-off point for your edit. If you start by looking for problems you’ve had in the past and that you already have experience fixing, it can prime the pump for recognizing other issues and get you thinking critically about your manuscript.

Once you’ve figured out the best way for you to get into the editing state of mind, you can make a writing/editing schedule that fits your editing style and helps you to make the best use of your time. If time is the best way for you to gain perspective on your work, you could stagger your writing and editing so that the clock is always ticking on pages to be edited– if you need to let pages sit for three weeks before you can look at them as an editor, write for six weeks, then stop and edit the first three weeks’ worth of material. When you’ve done that, write for another three weeks while the second three weeks’ pages “ripen,” and so on. If your perspective is better aided by reading or writing other material, schedule breaks for that reading or writing into your writing/editing schedule.

You may prefer to finish your manuscripts and edit them all at once rather than alternating between writing and editing. If that’s the case, consider that even though you wrote the first chapters three months ago, you wrote the last chapters much more recently, and you may need to let the whole manuscript sit for awhile before you have enough perspective on the book as a whole to edit effectively. If you’re the kind of author who goes crazy if they’re not working on a manuscript at all times, you may want to consider always having two manuscripts in play– writing a second book while waiting to edit the first– so that you don’t feel like you’re wasting time while waiting for perspective to show up on the first one.

Keep in mind that these are just a few examples of dozens of ways you can balance your writing, editing, and space-making activities. Be sure to check the comments for several helpful posts from authors about what kind of schedule works for them (or leave yours if you have one). Next week we’ll be talking about the role of a style sheet in the editing process and how to build and use one. Thanks for reading!

The Immediate Past or The Distant Future?

July 22nd, 2015 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

Publishing & Technology: The Immediate Past or the Distant Future?
Brian Tibbetts is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Wednesday, Brian posts about trends in the publishing industry and developments in technology that impact the industry. You can find him on Twitter @BRIANRTIBBETTS
This week in Publishing & Technology we’ll be talking about innovation in digital publishing (again). This week, like every week, I scoured the internet looking for signs that the publishing revolution that we’ve all heard about for so many years now will feature something beyond digitally delivered versions of print only books (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and again I came up empty-handed. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough, but the most relevant article I found this week was penned by The Silent History co-creators Eli Horowitz and Russell Quinn in the spring of 2013. For the full article on the Huffington Post site click here.
I had the good fortune to attend a conversation between Eli Horowitz and Paul Collins (yes, that Paul Collins) not long before this article appeared on the Huffington Post Blog. The conversation was a part of the Transmit Culture lecture series put on by the Master’s Program in Publishing at Portland State University and what was discussed that evening galvanized my growing enthusiasm for pursuing for pursuing a career in publishing. During the conversation Collins and Horowitz discussed The Silent History, its recent launch, and its success (or potential lack thereof) as an experiment in innovative digital publishing at length before finishing the evening with talk of Horowitz’s tenure at McSweeney’s and a Q&A session with the audience. The Silent History is a truly innovative in its scope and unique (thus far) in its level of execution. As Horowitz and Quinn put it, “In the olden days (say, 2009), a few publishers did dip their toes in these waters, experimenting with a few innovative projects; these didn’t earn enough to justify their start-up costs, and publishers seem to have now largely retreated to straight digitization of standard text projects, occasionally adding a halfhearted enhanced ebook.” To date, The Silent History, still stands as the best (if not the singular) example of a truly innovative, digital text-based publishing venture. Is the reason for this purely economic or is Taylor Antrim correct in his June New York Times review of Horowitz and Adrian’s (traditionally published) book The New World, when he claims that, “It turns out we don’t want tech-aided experiments in form.”