The Place To Be

Views of San Francisco, CA

It's RWA Conference week In San Francisco!

It's the place to be if you write romance. And it seems most everyone I know will be there.

I won't, sorry to say. Even so, for those of us not going, we can still wait for reports from those who are. And photos, of course! Not exactly the same thing as being there, but at least we can feel a little connected.

The conference has tons of great workshops and lectures for writers, held by published writers, and also hosts editors, agents and publishers, oh my! So in the spirit of the famed RWA Conference, I will share a few helpful writing tips I've acquired over time.

I searched my files and found an article I thought appropriate for today. It's called:

Editor's Pet Peeves by Harlequin author, Kathy Witlox.

You may call them pet peeves, bugbears, gripes, things that make me want to spit, but no matter what you call them, they're annoyances. Major annoyances. They are particular to each person, and they're most potent when you see the same bothersome thing happening over and over again.

As you can well imagine, editors see a lot of manuscripts, and through these manuscripts, they see a heck of many writers falling into the same unfortunate traps. Perhaps learning of some of the common downfalls will help you avoid irritating the editor to whom you want to submit your manuscript!
So here they are, no holds barred!

The Submission
"Not submitting the book to the right place—writers not doing their homework to know what we're looking for. There's no excuse for that with such a great resource
as eHarlequin.com."
"Spelling mistakes in the cover letter."
"Word length that is way over the limit of the line."
"'Teasing' the editor by not revealing plot points. It's never made me want to ask for the rest of the manuscript."
"Writers who…argue about everything and don't try to see why an editor might have concerns with a manuscript. They submit the same idea (sometimes with a new title) to every new editor who joins the department, assuming, I guess, that we don't talk to each other or keep notes. It makes me wonder if they believe that they're not wrong, just misunderstood."
"Authors who will agree or say nothing but then ignore your revision suggestions. They think that not entering into a dialogue is professional. Yet it is really the opposite."
"One manuscript at a time! It's not a good plan to bombard the editor with lots of synopses or partial manuscripts in the hope that one of them might suit."
"Would-be writers need to embrace feedback—not fear it—and give themselves the space and time to learn their craft. If they can look at each manuscript as a step toward the goal of being published, that is helpful and allows them to grow."
"I'm always surprised by the manuscripts I receive without the author's name or book title in the header (and sometimes not even the page number!). I don't care how you decide to style it, but you need at least the title or author name (preferably both) and page number in the header of every page of the manuscript."
The Story
"I get annoyed by writers who include so-called hooks 'because they sell' and don't bother to ensure the elements are germane to the story and well-integrated."
"Conflicts that would be solved though a conversation. Sometimes authors can be creative and have valid reasons the characters aren't communicating, but most of the time it's just frustrating and annoying. Stronger, layered conflicts need to propel the characters."
"A lack of escapism. Romance readers demand exciting, uplifting, inspirational stories, even if they are medical or historical—spare me the political commentary, the brutal realities of war, child abuse and domestic violence."
"Characters who resolve their romantic conflict well before the end of the book. Usually their resolving the danger/suspense points follows that, but, for me, in a traditional romance, the romantic resolution is the big payoff and needs to be the finale. Once the romance is resolved, I just don't care as much, as I know the story has to end happily anyway."
The Characters
"Secondary characters and background detail: The main focus of our romances needs to be the central relationship. Too often I see manuscripts that are well written but lacking in intensity and emotional depth because they are filled with minor characters and external elements."
"I really dislike stories where the heroine tries to prove her bravery or competence by doing something incredibly stupid and refusing to back down. Though the author is trying to show her 'gumption' or 'strength of character,' it usually makes her seem very foolish and immature. (This occasionally happens with the hero, as well, just not as frequently.)"
The Writing
"A lackluster opening to a story; e.g. a main character driving up to a place to confront someone, overly poetic descriptions of weather, a character thinking about what's about to happen and how this pertains to his/her past."
"Authors who can't remember their own characters' names."
"I hate it when I can finish the characters—or worse yet, the author's—sentences before I read them with exactly the same wording that's there."
"I work on Historical a fair amount, and I'm not the most PC person in the world, but each time I review a manuscript that calls a half-Native American/half-white man a 'half-breed' it gets immediately rejected. To me it is not only an indicator that the writer doesn't care about the mixed hero, but also that their writing probably isn't going to reflect any sort of modern sensibility [thus appeal]."
"Having every little thing described in great detail so nothing stands out."
"Also, all authors slush or published, need to tone down their use of the word 'gaze.' It is entirely overused."

There you have it. Write Well and Write Often. All those heading to RWA have a great time and learning experience!

What I'm Writing


dianne said...

RWA is the place to be! And good luck to all who attend.

Amanda said...

I wish I could go too... :((

Cate said...

Every romancer wants to go! This is a good article and so helpful to know the pet peeves.

Mona said...

As we see, not Everyone is going to RWA this week. I too would like to go someday. But I'm really not quite ready yet with my writing! It will be nice to see what other writers who do attend have to say about it.

Kaye Manro said...

Yes girls, we would all like to go RWAing! And Mona, keep on writing, your time will come. The pet peeves are helpful, aren't they Cate. I'll post more articles soon.

Linda Banche said...

No, not everyone is going to the RWA conference. I'm not, either, but I don't care if I ever go.

But, if they ever have it in Boston, I might go, because then I could commute.

Johnny said...

Conferences are good, and I like the SFF conferences if I can make it. But it's just not financially feasible for many newer writers. So we can come up with other ways to connect in the industry. But to those who are going this week, have a good connecting and learning time.

Kaye Manro said...

It's so true, Johnny. We don't have to go to the conferences. It's just one of those good things to do, if we can.

Linda, I love Boston. I hope they hold is a conference there someday too. But I understand. Not all writers need RWA conferences.

Christina Phillips said...

If at all possible, I'm hoping to make the conference when it's in NY... oh wow... how cool would that be?!