D is for...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

D is for Deal -- this is where you get paid, if you go the commercial route. A "deal" is negotiated by your agent (if you have one) and, in part, covers your advance. (An advance being what your publisher thinks your book is worth in the long run.) I am by no means an expert, but the basic "tiers" in deal speak are:
  • nice deal: $1 – $49,000
  • very nice deal: $50,000 – $99,000
  • good deal: $100,000 – $250,000
  • significant deal: $251,000 – $499,000
  • major deal: $500,000 and up
Regardless of where your deal falls on the scale, you don't get all the money up front; it's split over the number of books involved in the deal, and split again depending on the publisher's guidelines for acceptance of a manuscript.

D is for Dialogue -- You have to write like people talk, only better. Humans are rhythmic creatures, but it's not something most are consciously aware of. Detecting speech patterns is ingrained in our habits as a way of distinguishing friend from foe, social class, region of origin, assumptions of education, etc. You need to hear your characters in your head - and as much as people will tell you to listen to conversations to get a feel for how to do it, I don't think that's the best way. Listen to theatrical conversations instead. Pick movies, TV shows, plays, etc. by writers you love and listen for the sound more than the content. That way you're not bogged down with the sort of awkward breaks that pepper most everyday speech.

D is for Diversity -- Never mistake your mirror for a window. Not everyone looks like you; not everyone thinks like you. You are not your characters, and it's not only okay for them to look, sound or act differently from you (and each other), it's essential.

D is for Details and Description -- How silly of you to think these are the same thing. :-P
If you describe a character, you tell me his / her physical attributes. What are they wearing? What color is their hair? How do they sound? But details of character are something else all together.

Details are where you get your hints about backstory and the inner-workings that make your character tick. (Literally, if you write steampunk.) What happened to your character when he was six that made him fear water? Why won't he cross the bridge on Elm? What was his nickname in summer camp?

Descriptions tell me what he looks like; details tell me what make him who he is.

D is for Dropbox -- one instance of somehow deleting all but four pages of a four-hundred page manuscript will burn this one into your brain for eternity.

D is for Die, Die my Darling -- "Murder your darlings." I think Stephen King gets quoted on this more often than he does his novels. Most everyone has a passage of writing they love to the detriment of the story as a whole. Maybe it's a flashback or just some particularly "pretty" writing. It could be something with special meaning to you. But if it doesn't fit the flow, then you've just shot your MS with a decorative bullet. Just because it's pretty doesn't mean it isn't dangerous.

D is for Delete, Drama, Delirium, Discipline, and possibly even Dramamine --

When you edit, it's a surgical strike and the Delete key is your scalpel. Cut deep, and make sure you get rid of as much of the problem as possible so any later edits will go smoother.

Storytelling is Drama and drama is conflict. You don't have to have a problem on every page, but every page should deal with the problem, either by making it better or making it worse. (Bonus points if you can pull of both at the same time.) Drama can also be subtle. You don't have to blow things up every other chapter for the story to be compelling.

Most writers talk about getting "in this zone". What they really mean is they've achieved a state of voluntary Delirium where the real world fades to white noise and their imagination takes over their hands for a short time. Some stellar writing happens this way, but I should warn you, little things like a sense of hearing, the need for food and water, and possibly even showering can lose their immediacy in the delirium... and that's no fun for anyone. :-P

If you want to make a career out of writing, then discipline is a must. If you're a mechanic, you fix cars everyday. If you're a lawyer, you work on legal documents. If you're a writer, then you write. It doesn't have to be much, but it should be something. Treat writing like a hobby, and you'll get a hobbyist's results. Treat it like a career, and you'll get a professional's results. I'd rather take the one that pays more.

Why Dramamine, you may ask? Because the decision to be a writer can spin you in so many directions and involve so many conflicting ideas of what's right or wrong, hot or cold, in or out, and a thousand other contradictions that it's easy to end up motion sick. It's up to you to keep yourself balanced through it all - that way, when you get "the call", you won't be so dizzy you lose your lunch on whichever agent makes it.

Next time on Josin's Junction, E is for Edits, Effort, and E-books.

(btw - I've started querying as of last night. Yes, it was stupid to do so on a holiday weekend, but I forgot about Good Friday being this week. Send me some good thoughts, okay?)

4 Chiming In:

Lori M. Lee said...

Love this. And I keep a pack of Dramamine in my purse at all times b/c my equilibrium is seriously THAT sad lol

Lindsey said...

Great post! Good luck with the querying! Positive thoughts... :)

Peaches said...

Congrats with the selection of your first page and thanks for the info.

Deirdra Eden-Coppel said...

You have a fabulous blog! I want to award you the Creative Blog Award for all the hard work you do!

BTW, I am your 200th follower. WHOAHOO!
I invite you to follow me as we have a lot in common.

My blog specialize in helping writers get published by learning from agents, editors and authors who I interview.
Tomorrow, I am having a literary agent on my blog as a special guest. She has some great tips for authors.

Take care and have a nice day :-)
Go to http://astorybookworld.blogspot.com/p/awards.html and pick up your award.
~Deirdra

Post a Comment