Looking back at my Writer’s Notebook – Part Two

Notes on first time publishing, working with your editor, and writing villains is what I’m sharing with you this week.

Last week I told you that I’m browsing through my first notebook, rediscovering its contents. Many of its initial pages are devoted to rewrites of my first novel. The next few pages are from seminars I attended, but I’m not totally sure which ones. Too much time has passed.

This quote is at the top of the page:

“You can use coincidence to get your characters into trouble, but never out of it.”

At the time, my first novel was contracted but not published, but in these notes I suggest to myself that I should join a writing group for my second novel. I actually did this. I remember an older man in the group wanted to read my initial draft. He returned it to me after only reading the first few chapters as he didn’t believe that gay men could meet and agonise over going to bed together.

I was not impressed with his thoughts.

Anyway, here are some of the points jotted down under ‘First Time Publishing’:

  • Publishers want something that fits into an easy genre.
  • Consider an unpublished manuscript competition (to keep away from the slush pile).
  • A first time author has very little negotiating space. The publisher is taking an enormous risk on you. Don’t be a slacker!
  • The overseas market is where you make money. (I’m Australian. I have an American publisher. I challenge this notion)
  • Let your publisher know why you picked them.
  • Know what you’re working on tomorrow.
Photo on Visual Hunt

Next, several points from an Editors Seminar:

  • A writer who wants to be challenged is what an editor dreams of. The editor wants to see their ideas taken on in the next draft.
  • The editor/writer relationship is like a game of tennis – ideas back and forth.
  • The editor’s role is to make sure the book sells well. Their responsibility is to the book, not the author.
  • An editor can’t put too much ego into working with you.
  • An editor considers if the book is reaching its own ambition.
  • Structure can be fixed. The writing can’t.
  • Your editor is your book’s first reader. They have to fall in love with it.

Finally, for something completely different, advice on Writing Villains:

  • A villain has to have their own moral compass.
  • This character fascinates us as we see elements of ourselves in them. In a different time and place, we would have acted the same way.
  • We relate to this character because they are the outsider, and we’ve all felt like that.
  • Give your villain an insight into a truth the others don’t see.
  • As a writer, don’t pass judgement on their actions. This is up to the reader to do.

The next pages of my notebook are dedicated to the plot outline of my second novel, where the words ‘The etiquette of mutual desire’ are written to encapsulate what that whole novel is about. Then there are pages dedicated to a further rewrite of my first novel which I suspect were notes from my editor.

Next week I’m going to share dot points from a workshop I attended on editing your work between drafts.

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