What I'm reading: Stranger in Paradise, by Robert B. Parker
I met an aspiring author friend at my local Barnes & Noble yesterday. I arrived early, so I stopped to chat with the store's Community Relations Manager, who sets up book signings and other events. Our RWA chapter has a group signing scheduled for May 9th, and I wanted to check to see if there would be problems getting my books. Sadly, there often are, as they're not with the big NY publishing houses. However, the CRM is very good about supporting local authors, and makes every effort to accommodate them. I have to admit, it impressed my friend, when he said, "I want to see your book on the shelf." We walked back to the Romance section, and I headed down the alphabet. He stopped and said, "Here it is!"
And there it was...
We talked about the writing business. The process of being published. We talked about story structure. He showed me his first few pages on the novel he's been reworking. We chatted about writing in first versus third person. How much harder it can be to confine yourself to one character's head. I offered a few suggestions on ways to make the thoughts sound like they truly came from the character and weren't on the page so the author could sneak in what the guy was wearing. He started making notes.
We talked about openings, which, coming right on the tail of Tracy Montoya's workshop, were fresh in my mind--not to mention that's where I am in my current project. He said exactly what I'd said, and what so many beginners say. "But I have to show you who the character is, what he does, what his life is like, so you'll understand what he does when the exciting stuff happens."
I told him I'd cut the first eight chapters down to three in one of my earlier books. That yes, the details were important, but to ask himself, "Does the reader need to know this NOW?" And that "It gets good in chapter 4" wasn't going to work if he was trying to hook an agent, editor, or even an impatient reader. Get chapter 4 into chapter 1 and filter in all the other stuff as the need arises. He scribbled more notes, and I had this panicky feeling. What do I know? I'm a newbie myself.
But he said he'd had many people look at his work, but I was the only one with 5 books published. My words had credibility. He also, thank goodness, seemed strong enough in his convictions to ignore me if he thought I was wrong, "credentials" or not.
Before long, an hour and a half had sped by, and we both left feeling better about being writers.
But just to make sure I didn't get too cocky about being a real writer, I got home to an email from my agent with another rejection letter. However, this is the year I resolved to be more like Frankie Castor in When Danger Calls, and find the bright side. The letter said, "consensus was ..." Consensus. That means more than one person looked at it. That it didn't hit some assistant's desk and get trashed immediately. It took more than one person to decide on, "no thanks."
Back on March 5th, I mentioned I was an "ambassador" for the "Go Green, Read e" project. I've blogged about Carbon Footprints at GreenBookFriends today.
Be sure to come by tomorrow for the next installment of cop humor from Homicide Hussey!