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Showing posts from February, 2012

laistrygonians and cyclops, wild poseidon: on difficult revisions

Thus far, INTERN has been rather shy about discussing her own novel-to-be on this blog, in part because she is wary of writing too much about herself, and in part because until recently, she would often wake up in a panic that she Won't Be Able to Pull It Off (the novel) and should therefore refrain from mentioning it until it's safely done.
INTERN's has not been one of those manuscripts that slips and slides, barely tinkered with, from writing desk to agency to publisher to bookstore. On the contrary, the number and scope of changes (and change-backs. and changes-again) has been dizzying. Although INTERN is increasingly stoked with the way things are coming together, she has felt, at other points in the revision process, like a wretched third grader held back after class to struggle with a math problem she just can't solve, long after everyone else has finished and gone out to play.
Panic. Despair. Self-laceration. Improbable solution after improbable solution, none of…

don't panic: why your publishing disaster matters less than you think

Since this blog's inception in 2009, INTERN has been the happy recipient of all sorts of panicked, confessional e-mails and requests for advice from readers undergoing their own personal Publishing Disaster. These Disasters are spread fairly evenly over the course of the publishing process.
There's the Beginner Phase Querying Disaster:
I put down "Won second place in the My Little Pony poem-writing contest 2003" in my query letter, but then my writing friend told me it wasn't a relevant credit and I shouldn't have included it, and now the ENTIRE PUBLISHING UNIVERSE is going to think I'm some kind of My Little Pony-writing IDIOT and should I e-mail those agents and explain?
There's the Advanced Phase Querying Disaster:
I sent out my queries and wasn't hearing anything back, so in the meantime I kept revising the manuscript, which is now significantly different from the manuscript I pitched in my queries—and today I got a request for a partial, so do I …

tell a dream, lose a reader...but why?

The first time INTERN heard Henry James' pronouncement "Tell a dream, lose a reader," she was baffled. Why not "write a training montage, lose a reader" or "use Comic Sans, lose a reader" or any other writing peeve? What is it about a dream sequence that makes readers roll their eyes, yawn, or chuck the book onto the floor?

After a several years of having this question gnaw at her (and writing and discarding a few doomed dream sequences of her own), INTERN has a few theories about why, despite writers' ongoing love affair with writing them, readers tend to dislike dreams.

Dreams feels like cheating.

You'd cry foul if the very tool your protagonist needed dropped out of the sky on a silver parachute (unless your book is The Hunger Games, that is). All too often, writers use dreams to parachute information to the protagonist ("the key is hidden in the banana grove!") rather than having the protagonist do the hard work of figuring out tho…