Monday, July 9, 2007

Writing A Winner

On Saturday afternoon, I traveled to Warren, Ohio, to attend a local "Block Party" sponsored by one of our churches. In addition to all the carnival-type rides, attractions, and junk food, an antique car show was included in the day's festivities. At the end of the afternoon, trophies were awarded to the winners of a variety of different car classes, such as: Best Chevy: 1950-1960 models.

In some categories, the competition proved pretty stiff. I don't know how they decided which of the many two-toned BelAirs took First Place in their category, let alone how they picked one "Best of Show" grand-prize winner from among all the entries. However, there were other categories with only one vehicle in their class of competition. In those cases, they were pronounced winners in their category by default.

Today, I've been reviewing mystery proposals. As I plow through my acquisition files, I must say, it seems as though some authors think they have no competition whatsoever. Not only do punctuation, spelling, and grammar errors abound in their proposals, but their sample chapters are downright dull. I received one hard-copy proposal in my incoming mail, when our guidelines clearly state we accept e-mail submissions only.

Folks, when it comes to publishing, the competition is fierce. You can't expect to win any acquisition prizes with a junk-yard jalopy of a proposal! Please, please, please. . .at the very least have someone with a keen eye for detail (other than yourself) read over your proposal before you enter the acquisitions' fray. While we might not reject a proposal based solely on the nuts and bolts of the presentation, we definitely give bonus points to authors who take the time to spit-shine their proposal prior to submission.

Of course, your proposal won't win any contracts based on outside appearances alone. Beyond chrome and polish, it's what's "under the hood" that matters most. The best story wins. Every time.

Editor's Tip of the Day: Read or re-read Brandilyn Collins' characterization how-to book, GETTING INTO CHARACTER. Her "Four Ds" concept for developing the super-objective of a story and its characters may very well revolutionize your writing.

I don't have time or space to explore each point today. (What was it we all said when giving a third-grade book report--"If you want to know how the story ends, you'll have to read the book.") But in essence, Brandilyn teaches that every plot and/or character's objective should progress through these stages: Desire. Distancing. Denial. Devastation. Susan Warren adds a fifth "D" to this list--Delight.

Authors, start your story's engine. . .at the right time and place. . .and keep the plot racing till the end. May the best entry win!

9 comments:

Kristy Dykes said...

Brandilyn's book is great, Susan. I enjoy referring to it over and over again.

Jess said...

Great post, Susan. I wish my cozy was in that stack, but then again, maybe not! :)

Susan Downs said...

And just where IS your cozy, Jess? It's a mystery to me! sd

Susan Downs said...

ANNOUNCING! A SURPRISE CONTEST for COMMENT READERS ONLY!

Be the first to e-mail Susan Downs at sdowns@barbourbooks.com with your contact information and you will receive a free copy of the cozy mystery GONE WITH THE GROOM by Janice Thompson.

Susan Downs said...

WE HAVE A WINNER!

I barely had time to hit the SEND button when I had the winning e-mail response in my Inbox. Congrats go to Paige Dooly for having a quick trigger-finger!

sd

Mary Connealy said...

AAAAAAHHHHH!!! I want Janice's book. I'm going to have to buy it. Not such a bad thing. :)

Janice Thompson said...

Woo-hoo! I LOVE Brandilyn's book. It's amazing. In fact, SHE'S amazing. Susan, thanks for cranking up the excitement for GONE WITH THE GROOM. I'm SO excited about this story, and hoping the readers agree. You're AWESOME!

The Write Life said...

Thanks, Susan! I'd just jumped online and decided to see if Becky posted any new book reviews. Then I noticed there were new comments. I didn't even look at the time when I responded and assumed the comment had been posted yesterday. After you said I'd won, I went back to check the time and saw that I'd posted just a few minutes after you. I can't wait to read this book. It pays to check back often...

Paige

Pam Hillman said...

Getting into Character is a great resource. Even better is watching Brandilyn stalk an imaginary (was it imaginary? lol) fly while demonstrating some of the techniques in her book!