Good Writing, Bad Advice

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Rules-headerA blog for fiction writers and impending writers. An editor’s perspective.

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Good Writing, Bad Advice.

My name (once again) is Dave Workman. I’m an acquisitions and content editor for Muse Harbor Publishing. My job is to: 1) read manuscripts, 2) reject most of them as incompatible with our needs, 3) accept a limited number of promising tales for potential publication, and; 4) edit the living daylights out of those same pieces—then expect the writer to do likewise—before MHP commits to a publishing contract.

I have few friends.

However, I do have a modicum of knowledge for those of you seeking advice. Whether you’re already a contracted MHP author, a promising talent or simply passing by, I can offer a bit of insight. Because I certainly know what excites me as a reader.

Might I impart any significant pearls of wisdom on this page? I offer no assurances. Nobody in this business—in any business—can guarantee success. Finding a publisher is sometimes more luck (sadly) than skill. More good timing than dedication. Sometimes it’s who you know. Sometimes it’s who your daddy knows. Success is a subjective son-of-a-bitch with a chip on one shoulder and a crazed twinkle in its eye.

But knowing how to write well doesn’t hurt. And knowing a few rules won’t hurt either. Success may be elusive, but to an unprepared or apathetic writer, success is little more than a pipe dream.

Do you know the Numero Uno, Most Common, Most Discouraging Failure, the Tragic Likely Outcome of all novel writing endeavors? It’s not finishing the book. Losing interest or losing your way, losing your nerve or losing your religion. It’s fear of success or fear of failure or fear of wrestling all those words into place, from “Once upon a time…” to “The End.” But if you can overcome that particular obstacle, you’re already closer to writing success than most.

 Finish the book. That’s Rule #1.

In this and subsequent posts, I’ll attempt to reveal what MHP seeks in terms of a desirable manuscript, although—bottom line?—it’s a polished, professional voice. Yes, voice. We’re far more likely to accept an uncanny voice over a fancy plot structure. Lock two characters in a dark closet, give them great dialog and personalities worth exploring, and we’ll consider that manuscript more closely than a story about brain-sucking aliens coming to digest Earth. (Although if your aliens have quirky, well-constructed personalities, we’ll look at them, too.)

Let’s face it, only so many plot-lines exist in literature. They’ve all been covered ad nauseam. Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy is eaten by giant squid. (It’s been done.) But a unique voice is yours alone. Exclusive. Inimitable. Priceless. For a writer, a unique voice infusing excitement into a distinctive character is money in the proverbial bank.

Okay, enough preamble. I do have one significant bit of advice to share. My first shiny pearl isn’t a “what to do”—it’s “who not to listen to.” IMHO, it’s one of The Most Important Lessons an unpublished writer can absorb.

Rule #2: Don’t listen to anybody (and certainly not to me) if the advice doesn’t resonate. Go with your gut. Go with your own instincts. Sure, listen selectively to proffered advice—accept feedback when it’s constructively given, but about 80-90% of what you hear will be poison. Remember, success is as much about breaking rules as following them. If it feels right, crayon outside the lines. I think Gandhi said that. Maybe not.

To illustrate, here’s a story. This one still gives me nightmares. I still wake up cringing.

The most single, most horrific, most god-awful perverse piece of advice I’ve ever encountered occurred during a writers’ conference. (And a writers’ conference can be a wonderful, magical, scintillating experience… but, again, be careful who you listen to.)

One evening, a panel of “experts” bequeathed their brilliance to a capacity filled auditorium of eager, fledgling writers. An attendee stood and asked a panelist a question, and in doing so happened to mention that her nearly-completed novel filled some 360 pages. About 90,000 words.

Without a moment’s preamble—without a speck of empathy or a grain of intelligence—the so-called expert replied, “It’s too long. Cut twenty thousand words.”

This Expert of Knowing Everything While Knowing Nothing had no clue about the nature of the story or its genre, or of the writer’s level of craft, the tenor of the book. Simply “cut it.” The writer was, of course, crushed. And I have never forgotten my frustration over that absurdly idiotic remark.

Should anyone tell you to arbitrarily cut (or add) pages without otherwise knowing your story, smile politely and walk away. I’ve read too many manuscripts that feel truncated and unfinished… only to discover that the writer had been previously advised to “cut, cut, cut!” without further direction or counsel. In desperation, many writers blindly begin hacking all the style and nuance from an otherwise excellent story.

Think of a novel as a living, breathing person. If I feel that your story needs to lose a bit of weight, I’ll not advise you to remove its liver or stomach or left arm. The process is to shrewdly exercise your book—trimming adverbs, adjectives and excess verbiage like so many bloated fat-cells. Little by little. Or feed it more Skittles, should the opposite be true.

I acknowledge that the above-referenced workshop occurred before the Age of Internet Publishing. Stricter rules applied once upon a time (although stupidity didn’t count back then, either). And I continue to hear agents and editors and the so-called “people in the know” advising writers to cut or add pages, to alter a manuscript in order to satisfy some personal itch or the guidelines of a publishing system that no longer exists.

The biggest problem today? No one’s certain of the new rules yet. But in this rapidly changing paradigm of 21st century novel writing, here’s my best advice: Trust yourself—and hone those basic skills of storytelling in the (somewhat paradoxically) simplest, yet most exciting voice you can muster.
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Santa’s Pick to Calm Holiday Stress?

book6Awakening Into Perfect Peace is This Season’s Ticket to Ahhhhs
“Awakening Into Perfect Peace” author teaches how to be drama-free anywhere.

New Mexico, CA (PRWEB) November 20, 2013

This season, a new book could actually bring more happiness than Santa Claus.

Awakening Into Perfect Peace: Reflections on Freedom from Suffering, by Dr. Ralph Huber teaches readers easy-to-use tips to make themselves happy, for life. Helping someone free themselves of life’s personal drama, confusion and Holiday stress might land that gift-giver a permanent spot on Santa’s “nice” list, making everybody happy.

On Sunday, November 24, 2013, Unity Santa Fe, New Mexico will host a book signing for Communications Expert and Author Dr. Huber’s new book, “Awakening Into Perfect Peace.” Dr. Huber will be answering questions from his new book, based on his popular course and workshop of the same name.

Dr. Huber’s book is packed full of easy paths to inner peace.

Readers of these life-transforming tips will learn to see and understand frustrations in a brand new way, free themselves from suffering, allowing calming “Ahhhhs” to replace stressful situations.

Dr. Huber asks, “Do you want to experience a life filled with confusion and drama by resisting life’s unfoldment, or do you want to experience a life of clarity and peace that comes from welcoming all of life – as it is?”

In these powerful and simple life lessons, readers will discover:

 

  1. A powerful process to move from suffering to peace
  2. How resistance to ways life unfolds is a roadblock to perfect peace
  3. An access to peace through a grateful heart
  4. How to embrace “what is” to enhance your relationships with yourself and others

 

Dr. Huber believes that inner peace is achieved through the path of least resistance, which is often the simplest path to take. “Most of life’s conflict is self-inflicted,” says Huber.
Amanda Creighton, executive producer of the film, Within Reach says, “Ralph Huber is one of the great minds and hearts of our times. Awakening Into Perfect Peace serves as a fertile ground for self-actualization.”
Awakening recently launched on 2013’s International Day of Peace from Muse Harbor Publishing. It can be found on Amazon.com and museharbor.com.

Ralph Huber’s professional background includes educator, corporate trainer and vice-president of a New York based management consulting firm that offered services to major communication and retail industries. He is currently a member of Hummingbird Community in northern New Mexico and serves as board president for the Unity Church in Santa Fe. Ralph holds a Ph.D. from New York University’s Department of Communication Arts and Sciences. He has an affinity for Advaita, Zen and Christian Mysticism.

An engaging, inspirational speaker with practical “happiness” tips that benefit any reader, listener or viewer, Dr. Huber can be reached for further interviews, including Radio, TV, Print, Online Blogs and event speaking engagements, by contacting Margaux(at)museharbor(dot)com.

Friend Dr. Huber on Facebook and visit his book event this Sunday, November 24, 2013 at 11:45 a.m. at Unity Santa Fe, 1212 Unity Way, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87506. For information on Huber’s personal coaching and seminars, visit www.awakeningintoperfectpeace.com.

Muse Harbor Publishing, based in Sea Ranch, CA, was founded in 2011 as an organization of “writers helping writers, in service to our readers.”

 

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Welcome To Muse Harbor

MHP_indicia_200pxThe Internet has changed the way we communicate. Words that once trickled across the world in days or weeks now flood it within minutes. That rushing tide has changed the nature of publishing, and it’s changing literature.

Muse Harbor Publishing is a part of that change. We strive to challenge the ordinary. To dismiss the mundane. We hope to transform, for those of you who write, how you’re read and who wants to read you. Our goal is to provide unknown writers of both nonfiction and fiction with opportunities that traditional publishing doesn’t offer. We’re committed to giving as many people as possible the chance to read your words and experience your vision. We want you not only to feel appreciated, but to know it.

We recognize that the pursuit of excellence is just that: a pursuit. Our primary motivation for publishing a book is not the number of copies it will sell, but how deeply its words resonate with us and how much potential we see within its author. We’re drawn to the power of a coherent mind and a fantastic soul, mesmerized by a unique voice, entranced by sharply articulated insights and masterfully written tales.

These are the same values that have enticed audiences since the telling of the first stories, and they often become lost within the modern business of literature. We want our authors to succeed, not merely for the sake of this company, but for themselves and for the benefit of their readers, whose trust and willingness to be transported by the power of language is the reason we’re here.

We’re bohemian technophiles who understand that bytes and pixels present an unprecedented opportunity to connect independent thinkers and storytellers with readers. We offer extraordinarily high revenues to writers, who, like us, are looking for no greater success than the chance to create and be supported while doing so. We’re also a family, with a small staff and a small but growing stable of writers, all determined to explore what it means to be a writer in the 21st century.

Above all else: we are writers helping writers, in service to our readers.

We consider Muse Harbor to be a place of sanctuary and tranquility. For those of you who write, check us out. For those of you who read, we offer a simple gift: productive, happy, prolific writers who have amazing stories to tell.

THE MUSE HARBOR PUBLISHING TEAM

 

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