For the next few weeks I want to pass on some things I've learned recently through attending a Queensland Writer's Centre novel workshop conducted by a structural editor.
Who is a structural editor? Well that would be the person who gets given your ms after it's been accepted by a publishing house. It's the structural editor's brief to look for flaws in your story structure, character arcs, well, your whole ms really. (Not that you'll have any obviously!)
Today I'll just share general tips that were passed on:
- Publishing requires a lot of luck as well as a lot of hard work.
- Your novel has to be commercial or publishers won't want to know you. (Go here to read more on Jane Friedman's site - invaluable!)
- Your novel has to be structured and clear.
- In other words, you have to do it right.
Now a little more particular:
Get your story idea - the editor suggested you write about familiar things. Write about people you know, by blending people. Take events that have happened - your life, newspapers, television...and use these events in your story. (This reminds me of Jodi Picoult's style. She gets her ideas from current events then thoroughly researches the event, then peoples it with her characters - always quirky, always showing multiple viewpoints.)
As Anne Lamott says in Bird by Bird, first drafts are 'shitty'. She even says that 'all writers write them'. But the good news is: 'This is the way they end up with a good second draft and a terrrific third draft.'The difference between a 'shitty' first draft and a 'terrific' third draft is...editing...and that's what I'm going to post about next time. Here is a great link to Write to Done, a great article, 15 Ways to Write Tight which might help you with your first draft.
What do you think? Stephen King in 'On Writing' says much the same thing as Anne Lamott - get that first draft down, put it away for a month, drag it out and go to town on it, discuss it with others, then start your third draft. Do you agree? Do you get bogged down in the first draft, self editing as you go and driving yourself and your story crazy! Like me?