Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Handy tips from a Champagne Editor

How to Kill Your Chances Without Really Trying

• Don’t bother with a hook to grab the editor’s interest right away. If she’s agreed to look at your book, she’ll read beyond the first sentence, even the first paragraph and the first page whether it captures her imagination or not. She’ll think, This writer cared enough to finish a whole three chapters and write a synopsis. He/she must have something good to say.

• Don’t worry about internal and external conflict in the protagonists. Just tell the editor they have them. No need to waste time by demonstrating (showing) what they are and how they will be resolved. This applies to the synopsis, too. Don’t ever let the editor know how it comes out. Say something like: “If you want to know more, you’ll have to buy my book. LOL!”

• Keep the editor guessing as to whose point of view you’re in. Go ahead and blend them, it keeps her on her toes. Write something like, “She felt the wind whipping her long, glossy tresses around her face and stinging raindrops pelting her camellia-like skin he as thought, she’s beautiful, even when she’s soaking wet and her nose is red from cold.

• Mechanical errors aren’t important. If your story is good enough, the editor will ignore spelling and grammatical errors and poorly constructed sentences so don’t bother taking the time to learn the basics of writing and self-editing before submitting. Just write. Don’t let the creative flow be stifled by attempts to get it right. Technique is  not required if you’re a truly gifted writer, which of course, we all know you are.

• Give lots of back-story information right up front. Use long, involved sentences full of  adverbs and adjectives that will impress the editor with your erudition. Don’t force the poor editor to keep turning the pages to find out why things are unfolding the way they are. Let her know right away and save her the time and effort of reading the rest of your story.

• Keep things interesting for your editor. Make her open her eyes and gasp with astonishment when your historical character from the 1700s says, “Jeez, Louise, that’s cool!” Or have a four-year-old speaking like a short adult--that’s sure to get her attention: e.g. “Mother, I think the pink blouse would be much more becoming on you that the blue one. It brings out the color in your cheeks. The blue one gives you a certain, shall we say... sallowness?”

• Remember to stereotype secondary characters appropriately: For instance, everyone knows that all Vancouver taxi drivers are East Indians who speak very little English, just as all New York taxi drivers are Iranians with secret plots to blow up something big and important. All ships’ skippers are keen-eyed seamen accustomed to seeing long distances and they all have crinkly corners around their blue eyes. All grandmothers are chubby and gray haired and smell of cinnamon cookies. All grandfathers smoke pipes.

• Don’t concern yourself with too much research. Historical accuracy is a waste of time. Most editors have no idea at all what went on in the American Civil War, or the War of 1812. And if someone else notices, too bad. Blame it in the typesetter or the copy-editor.

• Just let yourself go. Write as it flows from your heart. If you wrote it, it must be good. One run through is surely enough. If you go over it again and again, you’ll start second-guessing yourself and probably screw up the next great novel that should be resting comfortably in every electronic reading device and/or gracing the shelves of every home and library in the world.

• Do naught bother giving your work  a proof reed. If you have a spell chequer, just ewes it. Spell cheques pick up nearly all the typos you might have maid. They halve sharper ayes than you do and sea many things you might Miss. And if they do knot, your editor is trained to watch out four occasional miss takes.

• And if you’re already a Champagne author, none of this applies to you, but please pass it on to anyone you know who aspires to join your ranks.

Judy Griffith Gill, looking forward to reading your great books and being able to sale threw them without having to do any work a tall.


  1. Judy, this is priceless. As someone who used to be an editor, I can tell you I've run across all these things. I don't know how many times I've advised someone to redo their synopsis because it shouldn't be a back cover blurb; it needs to tell the editor where the manuscript is going. Like an editor needs any more surprises than they already get, right?