Today, is Les Edgerton’s last post in this series. We’ve been extraordinarily blessed to learn from him, so I hope y’all will give him a digital hug or round of applause. Les will soon be teaching on-line classes for WANA, so I’ll let you know when those are available.
Take it away, Les!
All of the points we’ve covered in this dialogue series are intended for one purpose only—to help writers avoid the red flags that improper dialogue can create for agents and editors… and readers.
And that’s what they are—red flags. That doesn’t mean that breaking any of these “rules” or conventions will doom your mss from being taken, but it does mean the presence of them can cast a negative light on your work. And, I imagine we all want to avoid that!
Also, there will be a great many examples of novels that break these precepts. There are many reasons for that. Contrary to popular opinion, novels don’t make it into print simply because they’re quality writing. There are many other factors at work. Factors that the writer may or may not have control over.
For instance, novels are published because the author has made a personal connection with a publisher. When an editor knows someone and likes that person, it’s not uncommon for that person’s book to be taken over another more worthy one. Happens all the time.
Or, an author may have had one or more successful novels already published and the current one may not be as good as the mss lying on the same desk as an unknown author, but the lesser quality novel will be taken. Again, happens all the time.
Sometimes, even though the novel breaks all kinds of rules, something in a novel like this may simply appeal to an individual editor. Maybe it’s the voice. Maybe it’s the setting—my first novel was taken by accident because of its setting. The Death of Tarpons had been rejected 86 times before I sent it to the University of North Texas Press.
That’s EIGHTY-SIX times!
That was in the days of snail mail submissions, where you had to pay the postage for the mss to the editor and also provide return postage. That was during a time when my family ate a lot of beans and really couldn’t afford to buy the tons of stamps I needed. I had made my mind up that once I reached 100 rejections, I would “retire” the manuscript.
What happened was that it landed on the desk of UNT’s publisher, Fran Vick. Unbeknownst to me at the time, UNT had never before published fiction. If I’d known that, I never would have sent it. Anyway, Fran’s secretary had unwrapped the day’s mail and as it by chance happened, mine was the first mss on Fran’s desk. Her normal routine when presented with a fiction mss, was for her to not even read it, but just stick a standard rejection notice in it and have her secretary send it back.
Luck was on my side!
As Fran related to me later (I’ve just revealed a happy ending and taken all the tension out of this, haven’t I!), her secretary was bringing her her morning cup of coffee and something happened where she had to remake the pot. That gave Fran an extra five minutes or so before she began her “official” day, so, for want of anything else to do, she picked up the first page of my novel and began idly to read it. If it wasn’t for her secretary’s failing to deliver her that cup of coffee, none of what happened next would have ever happened.
It’s what she read on that first page that induced her to keep reading. The novel was set in Freeport, Texas, the town I grew up in. Like most first novels, it was an autobiographical, “coming-of-age” novel (there’s a cliché for ya!). The thing is… Freeport was Fran’s hometown!
What editor can resist reading about their own hometown, especially when that town is a tiny burg like Freeport? A New York City editor, glancing at the first page of a mss and seeing it’s set in NYC isn’t going to be nearly as intrigued as an editor from Freeport, Texas reading a novel set in… Freeport, Texas!
As it turned out, Fran also knew my grandmother who was prominently on the page immediately and was instantly drawn into the story and read it all the way through, got on the phone, and offered to buy it.
So, there’s luck involved sometimes. Although, the book was well-written, so it also pays to be ready for luck when it appears. Fortune favors the prepared! The book went on to be well-reviewed and sold very well and earned a Special Mention from the Violet Crown Book Awards.
The point is, there are so many factors out of your control that can lead to or prevent publication. But, there are factors that you can control and among them are adhering to contemporary writing styles and conventions. And that is the impetus behind these precepts. To help you avoid many of the red flags that may prevent your mss from getting a fair and thorough reading.
Okay? Best of luck to all of you and your writing endeavors!
Les, THANK YOU SOOOOO MUCH. We really appreciate you taking so much time from your packed schedule.
I love hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of April, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.
At the end of April I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!
Les Edgerton is the author of HOOKED, THE RAPIST, THE BITCH and others.
I’ve very much enjoyed this series – thanks, Les! I have your words of wisdom squirrelled away 🙂
Another winner! Thank you for the post. Chance is a large part of success, but preparation comes first.
What a great story, Les! Sounds like something one might read in a novel! 🙂 Ive really enjoyed your posts and am looking forward to your WANA classes!
Thank you, Les, for sharing your words of wisdom and experience. This series will continue to give me tools to polish my dialogue… because I am saving all of them in my “Writing Resources” folder!
Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experiences. I enjoyed these post greatly.
Thanks for the advice, Les. I enjoyed your dialogue posts, too.
Really enjoyed this series, love it that it comes from personal experience and from the heart instead of a educator’s stand point. Will be bookmarking all these posts for future referencing, particularly to keep reminding myself that its ok to write he says, she says.
86 times! There is hope for all of us. Thank you, Les, for a great series.
Kristen, I am posting to SARA and SAWG on FB. Thank you for bringing Les to us.
((Hugs)) for Les! Thanks so mych for your insight & advice! I’ve learned so much from you along my writing path.
And of course from Kristin too! Cheers!
Thanks for sharing your story Les. My friend has a theory on luck she says simply it is being in the right place at the right time. I myself favor synchronicity and a loving universe.
This is precisely why my wife and I are embarking on a journey to read more self-published works. We’re about sick and tired of the publishing houses determining for us what is acceptable. If more people would, perhaps we could circumvent and/or upend this absurd gantlet aspiring writers are forced to run. Les, I know the dialogue I posted on the other thread could have been picked apart per the contemporary rules, but I could equally make a strong case in defense of it. Yes, the publishing houses get the final say…for now. But self-publishing is taking on a new life of its own, and I believe it’s the future. No longer will talented writers be demoralized and dissuaded by the trolls in the basement of the publishing houses. We will build our own bridges to our readers awaiting on the other side and let them be the ones to determine our worth, not some English major three or four years out who’s overwhelmed and hates their job.
Sorry if that sounds a bit harsh. I’m just trying to create some conflict per the rules of contemporary dialogue, and at the same time keep it real. Remember, we can’t allow the protagonist to get his way too easily.
This has been a huge help Les. Thank you.
What an amazing story about luck, talent, and determination.
Great series of posts! I’ve learned a lot about writing dialogue from them. Thanks for your words of wisdom.
Great story! Love that entire series. Thanks for sharing.
Nice story! Now THAT’S what I call fairy dust! 😉
I made a similar target for my novel. I finished it in 2009. I read up on what to do with it and discovered that here, in Britain, you were supposed to get an agent first. I decided to apply to all the ones who dealt with my genre in the Writers and Artists Yearbook (the handbook we use in the UK that lists every publisher, agent etc) but that was only 40 so it would not come close your your levels of dedication. In the event, doing the agents thing it took me a WHOLE YEAR to get a polite ‘no’ from five of them – response times ranging from 6 months to 24 hours – so again, I really admire you for persevering with it.. I self published my stuff in the end, because getting an agent before I died, let alone seeing a book in print, appeared unlikely
To be truthful, I am sure it is very different now, for a start there are a lot more small publishers.
This series has been very helpful. I bought Hooked yesterday to gain a bit more knowledge from Les. I consider myself the accidental writer, because I’ve had no formal training. I don’t necessarily believe in luck, but more in a kismet/ synchronicity vein.
I’ve shared each post on https://www.facebook.com/TheBlogstressNetwork. It’s a network I started a couple of years ago to connect a diverse group of bloggers.
Thanks Kristen and Les!
Somebody reading the last 4 posts on this blog will write a bestseller. I’m sure of it. I hope it’s me. Thanks Les (and Kristen!)…
Les, I do not hug males; but here is a digital strong grip handshake for a TY.
“For instance, novels are published because the author has made a personal connection with a publisher. When an editor knows someone and likes that person, it’s not uncommon for that person’s book to be taken over another more worthy one. Happens all the time.”
I agree. It is how I was published on Highlights for Children magazine. I was told that it was impossible to be published by Highlights because of the so many submissions. An editor was to speak at a Missouri Writers’ Guild Conference and I went intentionally just to meet the editor. And she encouraged me to submit and she remembered me because I sent the submission the next day after I returned home from the conference.
With novels it is a goal to submit over and over again. But it has to be written before one can send it.
So it takes lots of talent and sometimes a little luck.
Another enjoyable and educational post. 🙂
Reblogged this on My Blog and commented:
Three great articles by Les Edgerton over at Kristen Lamb’s blog
I really enjoyed your previous two posts regarding writing dialogue, but I wonder about this one, in the day and age where folks can self-publish – I don’t even think about submitting my manual so someone else can either reject me because I’m not related to nor a friend of – or accept by happy accident and take 80% of the profit for deigning to ‘publish me’ – I’ll take my chances on keeping 80% of the profit by putting my work out there, marketing for myself and seeing if what I have to write about is both needed and considered art – –
I know this may sound cynical and hateful, perhaps even judgmental of you – truly, it’s not how I’m feeling – I truly appreciate you being willing to write the guest posts with writing tips – but why an article on the ‘luck of publishing’ when authors have the ability to self-publish?
I’m just struggling to understand this kind of thinking in today’s reality of publishing options –
Great story. “Fortune favors the prepared”. So true.
Thanks so much for sharing your story, and your expertise. It is greatly appreciated.
I would’ve liked to see this post more about dialogue than the ‘how it happened by accident’ story.
Still, I’d like to read more of what Les has to say on dialogue.
I read Hooked and it was an amazing help. So is this post. Thanks, Les. And Kristen.
Thanks Kristen for hosting Les, and thanks Les for bringing such valuable information to us. I see now that there’s more to dialogue than I thought. 🙂