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What Would You Do? Well, whaddaya know?

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Children's Novel Opening and Children's Picture Book Competition

James Charles

"The hair of the dog that bit me, Lloyd."
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Hey Litopians, I'm back in the swing of things after my three-week RV trip (Caravan for you Brits?) through the Northeast and parts of the South, USA. I hope not to offend anyone, but I saw my first Hillbillies... They were nice, but sterotypical.

On another note: Finishing editing my manuscipt for to the xxth time. I hope to submit the revised, first chapter soon. But in any event, at what point do y'all say no one knows? What I mean is, I have had beta readers (and paid professionals-editors, who work at the top publishers) and one says detail or description slows down the action, then the next says it needs more detail and description. I know there is a balance, but when my detail is one sentence and woven into the action and it is too much for one, but not enough for the other. Oy! Just ranting. See ya soon.
 

Izuku

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Haha hillbillies. Crackers in Florida. Floating in algae-infested swamps with a cooler of beer, fishing. Speaking a language few understand. That's the stereotype, anyway. More in the panhandle but also quite a few in the green swamp.
 

Hannah F

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Do you have professional editors saying different things? If so, go with your gut. Writing is such a subjective business. What suits one won't suit another. If you had the chance to ask different agents or different publishers, you would probably also get contradictory advice.

(I had a prospective agent who wanted my story to be pacier. I thought hard about it and thought no. Any pacier and I would lose my "voice". Turns out they rejected in the end so I didn't have to reject them. Would I have had the guts to turn down after the rarity of a Full MS request? I hope so to stay true to my writing style and my story.)

It's your story. You choose.
 

Pamela Jo

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I hear the rant. In the end it's like starting a small business. You know the odds are slim that you make it through even the first year, but you gotta see if your idea works. Thing is if you fail with someone else's idea- what have you learned? On the other hand there are business realities like location that no good idea can overcome if you get that wrong. If the prime directive is, "Don't bore the pants off people", then where does the advice fit in? If everyone agrees the same bit is problematic then maybe the message is, "Here is where my pants started to slide." One thinks you fix that with pacing, the other by channeling Hemingway. But now that you know the danger moment you can come up with your own way to fix it. Tiffany Yates Martin has a great final chapter on picking an editor. She says It only really works if THEY pick you. If they just get your manuscript from the assembly line and are expected to read and make it into a masterpiece-the inspiration bit is just not going to be there. Detail and description have 2 very different effects on a reader I've realised. Description almost always comes from the writer trying to place the scene in their head. Detail is something that places the reader there in that scene. A maggot crawling in a wound. A drowning spider fished out of a cream bowl. Carriage horses named Gog, and Magog who are miffed at each other.
 

E G Logan

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But in any event, at what point do y'all say no one knows? What I mean is, I have had beta readers (and paid professionals-editors, who work at the top publishers) and one says detail or description slows down the action, then the next says it needs more detail and description. I know there is a balance, but when my detail is one sentence and woven into the action and it is too much for one, but not enough for the other. Oy! Just ranting. See ya soon.
As many agents are prone to saying in their polite (and patronising) rejections, 'it's a subjective business'!

But I admit if I'd paid real money to someone qualified to take a look at it – and I'd go for the first 3 chapters, not just one – I'd stick with them.
 

Jonny

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I feel your pain, James.

If you ask a collection of (let's say 10) readers, editors and other interested parties for their views on written work, chances are you'll get 500 different pieces of advice. Some similar to each other, but many diametrically opposed too.

The longer I've flapped around in these treacherous waters (the literary world - not Litopia :) ) the more I have come to realise that rules are not set in stone, although reading stuff online, there is no shortage of those who think they are. So much so that they shout about following rules from the rooftops, often charging a small fortune to share their views with us. Selling silver bullets and snake oil to anyone who'll stump up.

What Pete says is true. "If it works, it works."

Also, that too many cooks not only spoil the broth, but bugger up the whole damn pot of soup.

My advice would be, first and foremost, to go with your own gut feeling. In Huddles you always have valid and helpful suggestions for others. Says to me you are well able to make many decisions about your own work.

After that get feedback from a small group of those whose opinions you trust, but importantly, who will not feel obliged to blow clouds of smoke towards your nether regions. But open the invitation out to too may, and you will end up sitting in a corner with a pair of underpants on your head, a pencil stuck up each nostril repeating the word "wibble" until the end of time.

A good pro editor, with whom you could build a working relationship with would be desirable, although not (IMO) essential.

By the way, these are just my own opinions and I'm the first to admit I know nothing. ;)

Have just read back through the replies and would agree 100% with Hannah.
 
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Barbara

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Much of what I'm thinking has been said already, but I'd like to add this:

Consider also what your genre demands. What are the reader expectations of that particular genre? High adrenalin action, action action, or is it a much slower genre?

Also, could the description be strategically deployed / moved to a place where it actually provides relief from the high action?

but when my detail is one sentence and woven into the action and it is too much for one, but not enough for the other
Can that one sentence be written differently, i.e. as part of the dialogue, or put in a way it doesn't come across as 'telling description' which has been stuck there to give context, but is instead as a moving part of the set/cast that moves with the action (no idea if I'm making any sense here)?

Also are you referring to one line during a specific scene, or is it a style thing throughout the story? At what stage in the story is this bit? The readers may at this stage be invested enough that they really don't give a monkey's whether they have that description or even how long it is. As the creators, sometimes we can get bogged down in the details of every paragraph which the general punter won't even notice, or simply accept as this is how it should be.

I have recently come to the ... epiphany, that we need more non-writers as beta readers; some honest and blunt beta readers who avidly read your chosen genre and know nothing about the craft of writing and who are simply in for the ride, not the analysis of the detail. They read purely from an entertainment POV and consume very differently compared to a writer or editor who will always find something. Are they enjoying it to the end? Would they recommend? Job done.
 

Jonny

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I have recently come to the ... epiphany, that we need more non-writers as beta readers; some honest and blunt beta readers who avidly read your chosen genre and know nothing about the craft of writing and who are simply in for the ride, not the analysis of the detail. They read purely from an entertainment POV and consume very differently compared to a writer or editor who will always find something. Are they enjoying it to the end? Would they recommend? Job done.
This is so right.

As writers ourselves, such a small proportion of our intended readership will be writers themselves.

Before I began trying to write and as a keen consumer of books, I never once considered the ‘craft’. My requirements were quite simple. Did I like the story, did it move me, annoy me or make me laugh or whatever.

I think that all too often writers read the work of their peers in a ‘warped and completely unnatural’ way. Totally divorced from how the average punter does.

That’s not to say the advice of our peers is not valuable. Of course it is, but perhaps it needs sifting and careful appraisal to best benefit from it.
 

Izuku

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I have recently come to the ... epiphany, that we need more non-writers as beta readers; some honest and blunt beta readers who avidly read your chosen genre and know nothing about the craft of writing and who are simply in for the ride, not the analysis of the detail. They read purely from an entertainment POV and consume very differently compared to a writer or editor who will always find something. Are they enjoying it to the end? Would they recommend? Job done.
Absolutely. Nailed it. I love receiving beta reads from fellow writers, but the target audience is the ultimate test. Often these are not the same thing.

I think it helps to give writer beta readers a guide. Ask "How have I done X? Can you pay attention to Y?" Of course, you might receive more feedback than you asked for, which may or may not be helpful, but hopefully you will also receive some answers to your questions.
 

Hannah F

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This is so right. As aspiring writers ourselves, such a small proportion of our intended readership will be writers themselves.

Before I began trying to write and as a keen consumer of books, I never once considered the ‘craft’. My requirements were quite simple. Did I like the story, did it move me, annoy me or make me laugh or whatever.

I think that all too often writers read the work of their peers in a ‘warped and completely unnatural’ way. Totally divorced from how the average punter does.

That’s not to say the advice of our peers is not valuable. Of course it is, but perhaps it needs sifting and careful appraisal to best benefit from it.
You watch a magician. The magic is seamless, wonderful. You care little about the detail of the craft. You just watch and wonder. But the magician knows the details of the craft. They have practiced, rejected what doesn't work, what others have shown doesn't work, honed the skills that make the trick an art to entrance.
The writer is the magician. If the craft isn't good enough, the non-writer-reader will say, "this bit didn't work for me." The writer-reader may be able to tell you why. We need both.
 

Jonny

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Not suggesting the feedback of peers isn’t of value. But to rely on it alone is not the best way to get a full and balanced picture.

In Litopia we all know and acknowledge the usefulness and benefits of Huddles and Workshops.

It’s in the case of enlisting betas where in particular we need a broader sample group.
 

RK Capps

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non-writers as beta readers

My understanding of beta readers is that they are non-writers (except maybe for a couple) for just the reason Barbara says. Before that, it's critiquing. Brandon Sanderson explains something around this really well. Can't find it now. Of course, there's no set way through the swamp of writing. Whatever works, works :) Whatever you call each stage is personal to you.
 

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Children's Novel Opening and Children's Picture Book Competition

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