Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Random Thoughts

Remember that really awful piece of crochet that was on my blog entry last week? Well, you should see me now! Ever so much better! I can now single, double and triple crochet and have the result look a whole lot like the illustrations. Next: Potholder!

Is there a helpful person in the Twin Cities area who really, really knows how to crochet? I would like to show him or her a pattern for a throw rug and get some comments on it. Thank you.

I’ve been going a little bit crazy the few weeks. My editor has been reading the manuscript of Blackwork since the beginnng of January, and my agent has been looking over the synopsis of Buttons and Bones for over a week – and I’ve heard nothing from either of them. I actually sat down and started Chapter One of Buttons, then thought better of it. I need to know if it’s right, if my agent thinks the story is in the right shape to be submitted to my publisher as first in the next set of Betsy Devonshire stories. Then yesterday she e-mailed to ask me to call her today, and we’ll talk. When an agent says that, it can mean anything. I hope this time it means she’s pleased. Or at least that I have hold of a good idea. I find I'm a little less anxious about the waiting - LOL!

Meanwhile, I’m working on rewriting a short story. It was written for an anthology that didn’t jell and on hauling it out for a look the other day, I think it’s too long. I’m cropping it down, but gingerly – the magazine I want to send it to pays by the word. I remember reading a long time ago that a lot of fictional private eyes were very bad shots because, at a nickel a word, it paid to have gunfights go on till the last bullet.

Did you know that in the Middle Ages, the man appointed by the king to enforce his laws in a county was called a shire reeve? And that if you say "shire reeve" fast and slurry enough, you get our modern work Sheriff?

Sometimes someone will ask me to read a manuscript and, if I can, I say yes. Sometimes I am rewarded with a first look at a fine writer. Sometimes there is only a hint of promise. And now and again the manuscript is awful, lacking even the basics of spelling and grammar, much less interesting characters caught up in a compelling story. I have found that you never know by just looking at or even talking to the person what kind of storyteller they are. It’s hugely fun to tell a writer that I loved the story, and exciting to see it later in print. The hard part of doing this is trying to find a way to tell the awful writer that I just couldn’t find anything to like in the story. Any suggestions?

Had a cup of dark chocolate hot cocoa last evening. Wow. Life can still be sweet, even when it's dark.


Sheila Connolly said...

I was part of a critique group of unpublished writers, a few years ago. One of the group was significantly weaker than the others, and didn't seem to understand our carefully phrased criticisms, or at least she never incorporated them into her rewrites. We never did decide what to do about her--she loved to write, and was so very enthusiastic about her efforts. Luckily she decided to withdraw to spend more time with her grandchildren.

I volunteered to critique 50 pages of someone's work at this past year's Crime Bake, and came up with an analogy that I think worked. I said her draft was like a Christmas tree: she had all the structural elements, but now it was time to add the decorations. It turned out that she had been working with a group of children's book writers, and they kept telling her to pare things down. In any event, I tried to give her some encouragement while letting her know that the story was nowhere near finished.

What to tell a person with absolutely no perceptible talent? Find something nice to say, like "your margins are really straight." Tell the person about the long and frustrating journey to publication, and the endless edits required, and say they're just at the beginning. And hope they ask someone else for comments next time.

Camille Minichino said...

Straight margins, right!
There's always a phrase or a hint of a character that can be interesting -- "potential" is a good word to bring out.
Also, what I find when reading ms is that it's all decoration and no structure, all ornaments and no tree -- then I just explain that the person has yet to learn what kind of structure today's industry is looking for.

I send them away to read read read so they'll know better what's necessary, and hopefully when they come back they're ready to do the hard work.

Monica Ferris said...

Good suggestions, both of you! Thanks! The Christmas tree analogy was very helpful.

BTW, my agent likes Buttons and Bones in synopsis, her critique focused mostly on changing the approach in the synopsis, not the story itself. Whew!

Anonymous said...

I work at Needlework Unlimited and teach crochet classes there. I would love to help in any way I can. I love that you are so determined!!
Good luck,