Okay, so the initial first draft of your short story or novel is completed. Congratulations! Throw a big party. Pat yourself on the back. That was a lot of hard work. Then things calm down, and you decide to sit down to work on draft number two. You take a gander at your masterpiece to discover it isn’t as glamorous as you first thought. Sure, you knew it needed work, but not that much! Where to begin? What to do? The text before you becomes blurred. It gets hard to breath, and you wonder if maybe this might be what insanity feel like. But before you commit yourself to an insane asylum, there’s hope, and it’s as simple as just a little focus.
A catchy tile isn’t it? How to get your work rejected. It’s a great way to get a writer’s attention, and it certainly got mine as I checked the list of panels Context offered this year. I knew right away that if I didn’t attend any other panels (and I didn’t, ran out of time), this was the one I wanted to do. Sure I’ve had my fair share of rejection letters. What writer hasn’t? It’s the accepted gauntlet all writers must endure as a rite of passage. Mostly, I wanted to attend to see if science fiction writer Jack McDevitt had anything new to say that I hadn’t already gleaned from the stack of rejections letters I’ve managed to accumulate over the last few years. I’m happy to say, this panel didn’t disappoint. It gave a lot of useful information, which I am now passing on to you. Enjoy.
This blog post is based off a recent workshop I took at Context. The shop was presented by author Gary A. Braunbeck. I found his class gave some really great advice, so I thought I’d pass it along for others who might find it useful too. The following is an accumulation of handouts, and notes I took. His advice covered everything from dialogue tags to punctuation. Enjoy.
- First Rule of Editing. ALL editing should be left to second draft and beyond. A first draft should not be edited until it is completed.
- Had. Avoid using the word “had” anywhere but in dialogue; when this happens, you will be telling the reader something instead, not showing. Consider the word to be a warning bell if you see it in the body of your narrative.
- Character Names in Dialogue. Avoid having characters use each others name too much when in conversation; shift the focus by using a simple physical action.