Advice, Blog Stuff, Craft, Fiction, Novel, Tips, Writing

Premature Publication

This post is a follow-up to my last post because that one was published unfinished. I’m laying the blame on SUE for that mistake (and before you smack me for not taking personal responsibility—SUE stands for stupid user error.)

For those of you unfortunate people who don’t have a WordPress blog, I’ll explain that WP takes precautions to make it hard for such an error to occur: the Preview and Save Draft buttons are well above the Publish button and are simple black text on white buttons, while the Publish button is set off in a colored bar and is brightly colored itself. So, yeah, it takes SUE to click the Publish button instead of the Save Draft button.

I had already published a post 12 hours earlier and had intended to post my rant today, Monday. I wasn’t even aware I had prematurely published that rant until I received notice that someone had commented on it. And that reader (I thought) had misunderstood my intent, so I quickly unapproved her comment and sent her an email explaining the problem. Then I re-read and made a couple edits to the original post before too many people read it … of course, those of you who subscribe by reader or email saw the unedited original. (I later added the disclaimer at the top of it.)

Besides my premature original post not making it clear that I like Elizabeth Strout’s opening paragraph, I also intended to make clear that I understand that for some genres, a paragraph like hers would be the kiss of death. If your story is action-driven, do not write an opening paragraph like Strout’s.

Another mistake I’ve made is in reading too many agent blogs and how-to manuals directed at other genres. Very confusing!

The intent of my post was a slap to my own face for mistakenly trying to apply rules for those other genres to my writing. This misunderstanding resulted in my opening undergoing several revisions, until I felt it no longer represented the tone of the novel.

Anyway, my last post was a cautionary tale: Know thy genre and be steadfast and true to it.

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Agent, Author, Craft, Fiction, Novel, Publish, Query, Writing

Yes, I’m angry!

PLEASE NOTE: This post is not a criticism of Elizabeth Strout’s writing, which I love. It is only a rant about some arbitrary writing rules.

This is the post that will probably get me in trouble. On Friday, I finally got a copy of Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge, which won a Pulitzer last year. Accessible literary books are what I normally read, but for some reason, after reading the first paragraph of this one, a light flashed on in the writer section of my brain and I began to seethe. Here’s that paragraph:

“For many years Henry Kitteridge was a pharmacist in the next town over, driving every morning on snowy roads, or rainy roads, or summer-time roads, when the wild raspberries shot their new growth in brambles along the last section of town before he turned off to where the wider road led to the pharmacy. Retired now, he still wakes early and remembers how mornings used to be his favorite, as though the world were his secret, tires rumbling softly beneath him and the light emerging through the early fog, the brief sight of the bay off to his right, then the pines, tall and slender, and almost always he rode with the window partly open because he loved the smell of the pines and the heavy salt air, and in the winter he loved the smell of the cold.”

Okay, I love this, but where’s the obligatory punch ’em in the face opening line? You know, the almighty hook! And … oh, no it can’t be … this entire paragraph is made up of only two sentences?! One of which is fifty-four words and the other is eighty-five words long! And whoa, what’s this? It couldn’t be snow and rain and fog in that opening because that’s the dreaded no-no weather. Oh … I get it, this is a hoax. This book was never published because no agent or editor would ever read past that first paragraph because nothing happens in it!

Yes, I know, I know, Strout had two books published before this one, so she’s allowed to break the rules. She’s a member of the “In Crowd” now. But if this had been her first novel, would any agent who reps literary fiction reject this book because of her “rule breaking” opening? Really?

So why am I seething? I’m angry at myself for taking to heart these arbitrary rules. I’m angry that I’ve rewritten my novel opening—as well as my query letter—a dozen times because they didn’t have enough in-your-face oomph! I’m angry that I’ve broken up uncountable melodic, well-punctuated sentences because they were “too long” and revised whole paragraphs because they were too “literary.”

I’m angry that I listened to my head and not my heart and soul!

So, now I’m taking a deep breath and going off to write the way I love to write. Who knows, maybe some day I’ll win a Pulitzer Prize.


Part Two, coming soon.

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