Good Morning, Everyone!

First I'd like to begin with a humble apology. As you know, I was supposed to drop by on Thursday but had internet issues all week and was unable to access. Came back up last night so Mama being the gracious person she is gave up her spot today to me. Thanks, Mama!

With that said, let's move on.

Dream Manuscript? Is there such a thing for an editor? Well...

Yes and no.

I've had some come across my desk that come mighty close but so goes it in life--nothing and no one is perfect:) At least, that still walk upon this good old Earth.

My idea of a "dream manuscript" would be one that-my first point is extremely important if you want an editor to even look at it-FOLLOWS THE RESPECTIVE PRESS' SUBMISSION GUIDELINES. Believe it or not many authors do not follow this first simple rule. Then I would say I look to see if the manuscript is tight, has limited typos and punctuation errors, and starts out with a BANG!

What, you ask, does all that mean?

Guidelines
This is self explanatory. Any author who is readying a submission to ANY publishing house first needs to take the time to

READ THE GUIDELINES

I can't stress this enough.

a.) make sure the house is interested in your type of book. EX: if you write crime suspense you would not submit it to a strictly contemporary romance publishing house UNLESS they stipulate your subgenre. Same goes with the Black Rose imprint at The Wild Rose Press. If your story is about Faeries and nymphs casting spells on villagers who wander into the woods, you would not submit to my line. This type of whimsical romance would go to the Faery imprint. That tells me right off the bat or broom, LOL that you have not READ the guidelines governing my particular line. So the moral here is be sure your submission fits the needs of the publishing house and the subgenre as well.

b.) DO NOT send any form of fancy formatting into ANY publishing house. There are specific formatting guidelines for a reason. Authors want to give pizazz to their manuscripts and make them look pretty but reality is editors don't want or need fancy. Simple is better and following the format guideline is best. An editor will not take the time to reformat your submission. It is just easier to reject the sub. Again, this tells the editor that you have not heeded the simplest request and that is following the house guidelines.

The Hook

When I sit down to read a submission, I want to be pulled into the story from the first sentence. ALWAYS begin a story with something happening. DO NOT set the scene or introduce characters unless you can do so in some form of ACTION. If I find I am reading page after page of summary, character intro and/or story setting, I become bored and guess where that manuscript is headed? I want to hit the floor running as do most readers.

Do yourself a huge favor. Before sending any manuscript to an editor for a review be sure to test it with someone who is willing to be honest.

PROOFREAD AND SPELLCHECK!

These simple tasks seem to be the least done. Editors want to read clean, little maintenance manuscripts. You don't have to be an English major to be sure your basic punctuation and spelling are for the most part correct. Geez, the computer word programs do most of this work for you these days. There is really no excuse to send a sloppy, error-filled manuscript out.

Granted there are situations when the word program doesn't always recognize missing or misused words but a proofreader would.

Another pet peeve of mine is using the wrong words. Confusing words such as peal/peel, there/their, bare/bear, etc. Read your copy carefully-one word at a time-before submitting. Better yet, don't read it. LOOK at it. Look at it very carefully one word at a time. Some have found working backwards helps to find errors you wouldn't normally pick up. And remember, a fresh, unbiased set of eyes always works best. Have someone who will be brutally honest proof you copy.

Another problem I see is using words like effect/affect, principle/principal, accept/except, that/which, among/between, alright/all right in the wrong context. You get the picture. If you are not sure which to use grab that handy thesaursus or dictionary. Mine is always close at hand.

Clean Tight Writing

I love to pick up a story that utilizes the right balances of imagery, description, scene setting, dialogue, chacterization, etc.

Again, nothing is perfect but a careful author can get as close to perfection as possible by utilizing one simple rule.

DO NOT OVERDO.

Watch for things like rambling dialogue with no beats or sideactions. This assists in making the reader feel part of what's going on. Use elements of the senses always in your writing. Let the reader taste, smell, see, hear... All this works to drop a person in the scene with the characters.

Watch for repetitions and redundancies. Do not lead or remind your readers. It's insulting. If you've explained something once and it's important to the plotline, trust me, the reader will remember.

Try not to list what's going on like a laundry list. Clean, crisp action description works best. Try not to ramble on how the heroine is mixing cream in her coffee, then goes and puts the milk in the fridge, then rinses her spoon, then walks back to the table and sits down only to finally say what's on her mind. Annoying isn't it?

Avoid God-like author intrusion. Stay within character POV as much as possible.

A short word on POV.

I prefer stories that carry only a few POVs throughout. Also I like to see one POV a scene. If more than one is necessary than split the scene so you are not what we call 'headhopping' from sentence to sentence or paragraph to paragraph. When an author gets into too many POVs in a story things become convoluted and confusing. Keep things simple.

One more point is the one you all probably hear the most. SHOW don't TELL.
Be sure to 'show' your scenes. Again you accomplish this by using the senses, imagery, and active verbs. Avoid telling like the plague:) Telling slows down the action. Summarizing works to avoid getting into areas that really don't move the plot along but use this sparingly as well.


I will stop there. I believe I have given enough fodder to chew on today and don't want to keep rambling on. I hope I have helped clear some things up about what I look for in a manuscript. I would like to advise you that this is my preference and not that of ALL pub houses across the board or even ALL editors at TWRP.

Dream Manuscript? They're out there*grin*. I've seen them but they are few and far between. I hope my post today will bring more my way:)

I will check in throughout the day to answer any questions you may have.

Thank you for having me here.

Callie Lynn Wolfe
Senior Editor, The Wild Rose Press
Black Rose Imprint
callielynnwrp@aol.com




28 comments

  1. Mary Marvella // June 6, 2009 at 11:10 AM  

    Awesome post, Callie. We each need to read that one several times!

  2. Judy // June 6, 2009 at 11:33 AM  

    Thanks for posting on the Pink Fuzzies blog. It's so nice when an editor takes the time to do that. Appreciate your remarks.

  3. Callie Lynn // June 6, 2009 at 11:49 AM  

    Thank you, Mary M and Judy. I appreciate the opportunity to help authors. My mailbox is always open so feel free to shoot me an email any time. I'm happy to answer questions or help guide authors.

    And I appreciate your invitation to be one of your regular bloggers.

    Sincerely,

    Callie Lynn

  4. Barbara Monajem // June 6, 2009 at 12:17 PM  

    I've seen a lot of the things you mention in contest entries I've judged. When I read an entry with no errors and wonderful storytelling, I'm ecstatic. I LOVE giving people perfect scores.

    Question: Do you often get pestering emails from writers wanting to know the status of their submissions? How often is too often? Does an author's online /email behavior often contribute to your decision to purchase a manuscript, or is it usually based on the writing alone?

  5. Callie Lynn // June 6, 2009 at 12:42 PM  

    Hello, Barbara:)

    And I so love getting a gritty, sensually hot story that I just can't put down!

    Barbara asked:

    Question: Do you often get pestering emails from writers wanting to know the status of their submissions? How often is too often?

    Answer: Not really "pestering," however, I do get some authors that will send status requests. Though I feel the need to be very honest here. Most authors are very nervous and shy about contacting an editor. They fear the exact thing you ask in part B of your question. There are always exceptions to every rule as we all know. I have had some cases where authors will be quite, shall we say, persistant:)

    I will tell you that most all my authors are wonderful and keep in contact with me as I do with them. I think that open communications eases the process immensely and eliminates fear and potential misunderstandings down the line.

    Question: Does an author's online /email behavior often contribute to your decision to purchase a manuscript, or is it usually based on the writing alone?

    Answer: No. That is not a deciding factor for me but I will say that the author's demeanor or how they come across will have some influence. Casual inquiries or concerns are normal but pushy, attitude-laced ones will make me think twice about how it would be to work with a particular author through an entire edit process.

    As I said earlier, I have no problem with any author contacting me, for any reason. And I will tell you that if an author is ever unhappy about anything with me or my line and how they feel they have been treated, then I insist and welcome the contact. I want to know these things. How else can we improve our commnunications if no one let's us know there is a problem?

    Does this answer your questions, Barb?

    Callie

  6. Helen Hardt // June 6, 2009 at 1:20 PM  

    Hi Callie -- wonderful information and advice! And it's been a true pleasure working with you on Blood Wolf ;).

    Helen

  7. Mary Ricksen // June 6, 2009 at 2:05 PM  

    Wonderful post Callie, I read it three times. Thanks for the tips, keep them coming!
    Can you give us some examples of showing not telling, that we might miss? I sometimes get confused as to when I am telling and not showing.

  8. Dayana // June 6, 2009 at 2:52 PM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
  9. Callie Lynn // June 6, 2009 at 2:57 PM  

    Hi, Helen and Mary. Thank you for dropping in a reading my thoughts--Three times, no less! Wow, Mary:)

    Helen,
    It was a pleasure working with you, as well.

    For those of you who may not know, Helen won a spot in our Got Wolf? full anthology. This is a collection of two full length shifter stories. The other winner is My Lord Werewolf by Ria Ellis.

    Blood Wolf is an extremely hot story with an alpha hero to die for. Look for Helen's story in Black Rose's Got Wolf Anthology releasing this fall? October to be exact:)

    Mary asked:
    Can you give us some examples of showing not telling, that we might miss? I sometimes get confused as to when I am telling and not showing.

    Answer:

    hmmm...

    here's an example for you, Mary.

    Telling:

    It was stormy today, and the rain came down hard.

    Showing:

    Lightning slashed the charcoal skies, and kettle drums beat in succession across the heavens. Rain poured in heavy droplets, sounding as if buckshot splayed across the aluminum shutters.

    Which version would you prefer to read in a novel? Which version 'shows' you the storm? Puts you right into the imagery?

    Callie

  10. Mary Ricksen // June 6, 2009 at 4:02 PM  

    Good example Callie, I was thinking of more insidious ones, that sneak in on you. Ha!
    Keep teaching us good stuff Callie, I for one am most appreciative!
    Come back soon!!

  11. Callie Lynn // June 6, 2009 at 4:21 PM  

    Give me an example, Mary. Give me a portion of what you would consider 'telling' and I will rewrite as 'showing.' How does that sound?

    Callie

  12. Barbara Monajem // June 6, 2009 at 6:21 PM  

    Thanks for answering my question, Callie Lynn. I've dealt with several editors (both regarding my own work and when they were judging a contest I coordinated), and they were all very polite and pleasant. I must admit, I really hated it when I had to pester one for contest scores! I wondered what it all looks like from the editor's point of view.

  13. Mary Marvella // June 6, 2009 at 6:47 PM  

    Callie,

    This is like a course for free!

  14. Beth Trissel // June 6, 2009 at 7:11 PM  

    Great advice for aspiring writers and good reminders for those of us who have 'arrived' but can always better hone our skills.
    Thanks much.

  15. Mona Risk // June 6, 2009 at 7:56 PM  

    Thank you Callie. Great advice you are giving here. The telling and slow pace are what usually throw me out of a story. My first book with TWRP, Babies in the Bargain, is coming out on July 03 and I am counting the days.

  16. Callie Lynn // June 6, 2009 at 8:03 PM  

    Mary M. and Beth,

    Thanks for your enthusiasm and comments. I have enjoyed chatting here today.

    Mona,

    Congratulations on your upcoming TWRP release. Wishing you success and many sales.

    Callie

  17. Debbie Kaufman // June 6, 2009 at 8:50 PM  

    Hi Callie:
    Enjoyed your post. I am still amazed that editors must continue to emphasize that authors should read the guidelines. I can't imagine not doing this. But, after handling submissions for a conference cold read, my eyes were opened!It seems a lot of us don't approach things professionally.

    So my question is how much do you work with authors to refine a promising story if they haven't really nailed it the way you would like to see it?

  18. Callie Lynn // June 6, 2009 at 9:18 PM  

    Hello, Debbie!

    Question: So my question is how much do you work with authors to refine a promising story if they haven't really nailed it the way you would like to see it?

    Answer: Great question. I believe that part of our job as editors is to aid new writers to realize their goals.

    When I find a "diamond in the rough," essentially discover a promising story submission but the mechanics are weak and the ms needs a lot of work, I send a revision request letter to the author explaining exactly where the problems are and invite her/him to revise and resubmit directly to me.

    Along with showing the author where and what I am referring to, I offer means for an author to gain help honing her craft skills. TWRP have many venues to aid new authors. And there are list of sites collected over the years that are fodder for aiding authors.

    BTW I want to mention that The Wild Rose Press will never send a form rejection to an author. Authors are told exactly why their ms was rejected and aid is offered in the form of directing them to critique groups, loops, sites to hone skills, and articles achived in various places around the TWRP or elsewhere, etc.

    After all, we are know as the 'gentler publishing house':)


    Hope this answers your question, Debbie.

    Callie

  19. Joanne // June 6, 2009 at 9:26 PM  

    Thank you, Callie. Great advice! Your post is a keeper.

  20. Scarlet Pumpernickel // June 7, 2009 at 3:53 AM  

    Great post Callie! What a great way to start my summer! I'm going to print your post and keep it close at hand as I get into serious writing mode to finish my current WIP! Yawn! Right now I think I'll take a nap, had a 14 hour flight home from Spain!

    Scarlet-Back from her jaunt!

  21. Nightingale // June 7, 2009 at 9:59 AM  

    Read every word of this interesting post. Thanks for the info, Callie.

  22. Amanda Barnett SE Faery // June 7, 2009 at 10:02 AM  

    Hi Callie, I loved your comments. They say exactly what I like to see in a manuscript.

    Amanda Barnett/Senior Editor/Faery
    The Wild Rose Press

  23. Elizabeth Pina // June 7, 2009 at 10:18 AM  

    Excellent advice, thank you.

    As a reader, I especially agree with the "Try not to list what's going on like a laundry list." That drives me crazy.

    As a writer, I'm going to print out this post for future reference.

    Elizabeth
    (who appreciates the extra effort TWRP editors put forth)

  24. Callie Lynn // June 7, 2009 at 11:54 AM  

    Good Morning!

    Hello, Scarlet, Amanda, Linda, and Elizabeth. Thank you all for your enthusiatic comments in reference to my blog:)

    Elizabeth, I have to say the 'laundry list' of side action is one of my biggest pet peeves after passive language and too many POV characters, LOL It's great to hear an opinion from the readers POV. Thanks for adding your thoughts.

    Dayana~

  25. Kaye Manro // June 7, 2009 at 11:57 AM  

    Thanks Callie. Great advice here.

  26. Mary Marvella // June 7, 2009 at 12:54 PM  

    Hey, Callie! Your post really hit the spot with a lot of folks!

  27. Linsey Lanier // June 7, 2009 at 6:47 PM  

    Yes, I'm coming in late and glad I did. This one's going in my keeper file. Thanks, Callie, for all the great advice.

    Linsey

  28. Edie Ramer // June 7, 2009 at 8:47 PM  

    Great advice, Callie! Thanks!