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Posts tagged ‘message’

First Monday Mentoring for September: when NOT to change your writing


Happy first day of Spring, and welcome to First Monday Mentoring for September.
Today I open the blog to your questions about writing and publishing, and answer them here. Post your questions and ideas, argue with mine, share your experiences. This is the day for it, heck, sometimes the whole week.

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To start us off, here’s a question from the Romance Writers of Australia’s Claytons online conference, raised again when I was judging RWA’s Valerie Parv Award. The 2013 award was announced at the national conference in Perth recently.

The question is: how do you know when to change your writing and when to stand your ground?
The answer comes down to Matter versus Manner.

Matter is what you want your story to say.
Matter includes your theme, your “message” if you have one. For example, “love conquers all” is the message of many romance novels. If your story carries this message, no critique partner, editor or well-meaning relative should ask you to change it. They may disagree, but you are entitled to have your writing express what you truly believe.

Manner is HOW you tell your story
This includes your word choices, settings, character behavior and any other means used to tell the story.
Manner is ALWAYS open to negotiation. As writers, we know what we mean to say. But if crucial details don’t make it into the manuscript, readers can be left scratching their heads. An editor’s job is to spot problems and inconsistencies for the writer to fix. There’s no point defending the work. If the editor misunderstood something, thousands of readers will, too.

So there it is. Matter – what the story is about – is up to the writer. Manner – how you tell the story – is the editor’s concern. Ideally, both of you want the same thing – a well-told story that readers understand in the way you intended.
Do you have questions or “war stories” about editing? Share them by leaving a comment below.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com
on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook
Read some reviews already up at http://www.valerieparv.com/birthright.html

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In writing – what you say matters as much as the way you say it

Most writers worry about getting the words right. I think we should worry more about getting the message right. A piece of so-so writing that has something to say can be forgiven a lot. And by message, I don’t mean something profound about the world or the human condition, though they can be in there, too. Mainly I mean a story we didn’t know we wanted to hear until the author wrote the book.

Have you read Clive Cussler’s first big seller, Raise the Titanic? I read this book many years ago, before Cussler became a household name, and a l-o-n-g time before the Titanic had been located. The book was riveting. The idea of finding this fabled ship, bringing her back to the light, and solving the mysteries of her sinking was what Hollywood and many publishers call high concept. The title says it all and is one of the best pitch lines (the single sentence you’re supposed to distill from your book idea in order to sell it)  ever written.

So what’s the problem? The book is also one of the most awkwardly written I’ve ever read,  riddled with grammatical flaws and horrendous viewpoint jumps. Perhaps they’ve been fixed in subsequent editions, but even if they had, the book couldn’t be a better read. In this 100th anniversary year since The Titanic was launched, even knowing the facts doesn’t spoil a good story.

What sold Raise the Titanic to millions of readers and to the movies, was the power of its ideas and the author’s passion to share them with us. Cussler had been an expert diver since 1952 and his love for and knowledge of diving underpins the story. I couldn’t put it down until I found out what happened on the next page…and the next…

It helps to keep your reader guessing

As writers, this should be our Holy Grail – to keep readers turning pages, anxious to find out what happens. If we can make them sneak a peek at the end to make sure the main character survives the journey, better still. We’ve got them involved, made them believe our fiction and care about our characters.

That’s your task as a writer.

I have my friend and neighbour, John Cooper, to thank for inspiring this post.  He spent some of the Christmas break poring over a book of very big words – VERY BIG words – and conceived a romance novel plot using his favourites. If words were truly the key to success in writing, this should be a best-seller. See if you think it would be.

A verisimilitude belles-lettres hypertrophic bathykolpian callipygian defenestration with

metempsychosis concupiscent anthropophagouseness.

Ooooo-kaaay.

The story stands a better chance when John puts it in basic English –

The true story of a lady with huge breasts and a nice azz who gets thrown out of a window

only to be reincarnated as a lustful man-eater.

Now that story, I’d buy.

What do you think of the role of words in writing? Post your comments and thoughts below.

Valerie Parv

http://www.valerieparv.com

On Twitter @ValerieParv

On Facebook

and ranting about life on The Hoopla

http://thehoopla.com.au/fun-fun-fun-seriously/

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