Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wordy Wednesday - Reflections from the Editor's Desk: In which no one said anything…

All my authors can attest to the fact I get a little delete happy when I see the word ‘said.’
I also go a little delete crazy when I see scoffed, asked, whispered, yelled or any other one word-add-name kind of tag. I don’t do it every time…
Just most of the time.
“I don’t want to go,” she said.
Seems like a perfectly good sentence, right? Why would I delete the said in that one?
Well, it shows me nothing of the scene. In a perfect world, when we’re storytelling, the reader gets this lovely movie going in their heads. They can get lost in that world to the point of getting annoyed at an interruption.
To keep the movie vivid, and leave the reader unable to put the book down, action tags can be substituted a majority of the times you would type the word ‘said.’
“I don’t want to go.” Daphne stomped her foot, her lip protruding in an obvious pout.
Her mother glanced at her watch. “We’re going. She’s your grandmother. If she says make an appearance at dinner, we go.” She tied up the loose ends of the garbage bag and hefted it.
“She’s old. Who cares what she thinks?”
The quaver in Daphne’s voice gave away more than her dramatics. Her mother stroked her hair before carrying the garbage to the back door. “You do. Shoes, now.”
Using action tags instead of said allows a storyteller to bring life to the setting, to the characters. You can show tells and/or important tidbits about the characters through the use of this peek into the world.
So, the next time you type the word ‘said’…hit delete four times and think about your scene, your characters.
Can you breathe more life into them by telling a story where no one said a thing?

Virginia Nelson
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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wordy Wednesday - Reflections from the Editor's Desk: PRIDE OF PLACE

How many of you remember Northern Exposure? That show could only have worked in a small town set in the middle of nowhere. Specifically in Cicely, in the frontier-like atmosphere of Alaska. The place limited the actions of the characters, exaggerated their quirks, and forced them all to accommodate to each other in order to survive. In other words, place acted the way a character would.

Or am I dating myself? Okay, how about Downton Abbey? Great show. What’s the first thing you think of when you picture it in your mind? Is it the lord of the manor, the servants, the lovely costumes? I’ll bet the first image is that great square pile of a house in its impeccable grounds. The entire show is driven by the needs of the house, and the family is bent, constrained, and molded by the idea of maintaining the estate. Remember that chilling line when the eldest daughter gives birth to a son who will inherit it—“Downton is safe.” Again, the place acts the way a character would, bending characters to its will. 

Where people are affects the way people act. For instance, here in New Hampshire we don’t worry a whole lot about earthquakes. The earth is pretty secure under our feet. Folks in Haiti don’t have that luxury. How does that affect the way they feel about their lives? Does it encourage a sense of fatalism? On the other hand, Haitians don’t know a thing about driving in a snowstorm. Most New Englanders have learned either to cope with it or to stay home. Does that give them courage or make them feel like cowards? Desert peoples don’t carry umbrellas; seaside peoples learn to watch the tides. Small towns are different from big cities; those who live in the mountains see the world differently than those who live on the plains; heavily industrialized places demand different attitudes than agricultural ones.

To be true to life, fiction must always take into account the way a place acts on its characters. Place is more than an accent. What impact do local weather, geography, ecology, population mix, job opportunities, and history have on the people who live there? Place can have as great an influence as upbringing does on a person’s outlook. If you don’t believe me, think about where you grew up. Now try transplanting yourself into a different place. Say you grew up in NYC; what would you be like if you were raised in the upper Midwest?

I don’t have to imagine it. I was 13 when my family moved from a working class, largely Catholic neighborhood of small houses, where a garage was a status symbol, to an upper-middle class, largely Jewish area of spacious homes each accompanied by a two-car garage. The differences in outlook between me and my younger sibs (the youngest of whom was not even born when we moved) are enormous. Religion, politics, the areas where we feel most confident--suffice it to say place has made us so different we talk about the New Jersey family and the Pennsylvania family. And those homes were only fifty miles apart.

When you take place into account in your work, you add another layer of depth that enriches the reader’s experience. It’s a powerful tool in your writer’s toolkit, so don’t be afraid to use it.

Nikki Andrews is a content editor at Champagne Books as well as a published author. Visit her at or at

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Wordy Wednesday - Reflections from the Editor's Desk: How a Small Press became "The Best Place on the Web"

You’ve just written the next blockbuster hit. What now? The options these days are unlimited. You could pursue an agent and submit to the big New York publishing houses. But getting an agent is easier said than done, and once you have one, he or she still has to submit your work to editors for consideration. I’ve seen otherwise stable authors broken to bits during this process.

Or you could avoid the submission process altogether and self-publish. But there are so many doing that these days, and quality is often, though not always, an issue. You’d have to arrange for an editor, a cover artist, and formatting, and pay for all those services. Some want the absolute freedom self-publishing offers. But for the rest of us, we want the advice and guidance of known experts.

Small e-publishers like Champagne offer the best of both worlds. You’ll get cracker jack editors (she says; modestly *grins*) and cover artists that our authors rave about. And we’ll do the final formatting for you. Best of all, you can still submit directly to Champagne; no agent is required. While this doesn’t guarantee acceptance of your manuscript (we publish quality fiction only) you can still expect a courteous letter back. Possibly, if your story is good but needs too much work for our editing cycle, you may receive what we call a revise and resubmit request. That’s not offered just to be nice; it’s a statement that we see possibilities in your story, but want you to do certain things before we accept it for publication. And if we do accept you for publication right off the bat, you know you have a great story that is well presented. Once you’re in house, new submissions can be sent directly to your editor, someone who you’ll know and hopefully trust by the time you’re submitting a second manuscript.

But perhaps the biggest advantage in publishing with a small house like Champagne is our support for the promotional process. Most authors I’ve encountered dread the word “promo.” Yet promo is a necessary step if you want to sell your book. In today’s world, you have to do the bulk of the promo yourself, even if you have an agent and publish with a big New York house. Most small presses offer chat rooms for their authors where you can share ideas. Champagne goes a step further, offering biweekly meetings devoted to promo and lead by our Senior Editor. Ideas are shared by all, including the editors, most of whom are also published authors. If you need help or advice to set up a website or to learn social media, it’s available through these meetings. You won’t be all alone in the vastness of cyberspace trying to publicize your book.

In case you’re wondering if Champagne’s quality equals that of the big publishers, I can assure you it does. Even well-known authors are now seeking out Champagne for their books. Support, a friendly atmosphere, quality. Our authors call Champagne “the best place on the web” for a reason.

Diane Breton

Champagne Book Group

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Wordy Wednesday - Reflections from the Editor's Desk: Notes from the Slush Pile

Happy Wednesday, everyone! Celia, here. I read submissions from Champagne’s slush pile and nothing makes me happier than when I uncover a gem of a story. Maybe it will be yours.

Here are a few tips from the slushy trenches to help us discover your shiny jewel.


* Do create a solid hook in your first chapter.
You may have heard agents and editors say this, and it holds true for slush pile submissions, too. If you start with a bang from sentence one/page one/chapter one, you’re more likely to keep your reader turning those pages.

* Do copy edit your manuscript (MS) before submitting.
If your MS is riddled with typos, missing words, grammatical errors, odd formatting, run-on sentences, etc., you risk pulling your reader out of the story. Polish, polish, then polish some more.

* Do review your GMC (goals, motivation, characterization).
Do your characters have solid goals? Clear internal and external motivation? Are they vividly drawn and unique? A strong hero and/or heroine will anchor the reader to your story.


* Do not head hop.
Head hopping within a scene disorients and distracts. One head at a time, please.

* Do not info dump. A truckload of TMI -- be it in dialogue or narrative -- threatens to slow the pace of your story, risks muddying the plot if not germane to it, and just might bore the reader.

* Do not forget there are five senses (or more, if you write paranormal like I do J).
Adding scents, tastes, sounds, and more spices things up on the page and brings your world alive.

Happy writing and good luck with your submissions!

Celia Breslin

Author, Line Editor, Slush Pile Reader
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