Friday, September 26, 2008

With Fall Comes Open Calls and NaNoWriMo Brawls

Jodi Lee, Editor in Chief for LBF Books, senior editor for Lachesis Publishing, and successful author, holds forth on balancing the demands of writing and working in publishing—and offers tips for writers looking to break into print, as well as what to do with that NaNo Novel once you’ve typed ‘The End’.

I was a writer before I became a slush reader, and a slush reader before I became a copy editor, and a copy editor before I became a content editor. Obviously, I was all of those things before I became EiC of LBF Books. Things have moved fast in the last three years, and in the flurry of words and red mark-up, I lost Danserak, my fornit*. My muse packed up and moved in with Danserak, and as I have noted on my website, they are raising some nasty looking little Munits. Seriously.

Their vacation is nearing an end. I will demand they come back to work, full-force, November 1st. For the fourth year, I've decided the best way to break out of my little box is to throw myself into National Novel Writing Month. 50,000 words in 30 days equals 1667 per day. This is the first year I’ll be working full time and attempting NaNoWriMo.

See, thing is, I’ve let the editing come between me and the writing. That is a good thing, in some aspects; reading new writers on a daily basis is heartwarming, even though I end up writing rejection letters for at least a good 95 percent of them. I have read some spectacular manuscripts in the last year, and I've read some utter dreck. I’ve turned down books I know will someday be sitting on my bookshelf, published by some other company. I’ve turned down books I know will be nothing more than an eager young writer's pipe dream. And through all of it, in the back of my mind, that little voice tells me my own writing will never measure up to those I've rejected. The walls of the little box become more and more solid with every sarcastic whisper, with every implication, with every tiny, evil giggle.

I know, we're all our harshest critics. Editors have the hardest time compartmentalizing the internal editor; it’s almost as though we’d rather leave him or her running around in our psyche, breaking down our own self-confidence. In fact, my internal editor has recently become so strong he managed to goad me into deleting an entire manuscript. Thankfully it was a short story, and it probably wasn’t any good anyway. Right? Yeah, right. Looks like another layer of wood has gone up around the little box.

For several years, I've told other writers and friends that the best way to break a block – to get out of that little box - is to force yourself through it, full-steam ahead. Join NaNoWriMo or one of the other similar groups. During the summer break, I joined July Novel Writing Month and actually doubled my word count from a previous year, although I was only halfway to finishing the 50k. There is a WriMo for nearly every month, and National Novel Writing Year as well. There’s National Novel Editing Month, which has a step-by-step monthly plan for revisions and rewrites, and which does run all year round, despite the name.

What I want to see from NaNoWriMo this year, is not only will I have a finished story, but after another six months or so, I will see some wonderfully crafted works come to us at LBF. I know you're wondering where I'm going with this, but just bear with me another few sentences.

A lot of NaNo winners have gone on to have their books published. I am confident that at least one finished and polished 'NaNovel' will grace my inbox by next July. I am making it LBF Books' goal to publish at least one 'NaNovel' in the 2010 publishing year.

If you're going to compete in NaNoWriMo this year (or if you have done in past years) and you want to submit your novel to any publishing house, I suggest you follow these simple steps before even considering it:

1. Find a 'first reader'. This person should be able to give you an unbiased opinion of your work. Family members and friends generally shouldn't apply.

2. When the critique is finished, take the advice into consideration before embarking on the revisions. I don't care how clean the manuscript is, it'll need a revision. Just do it.

3. Find a 'second reader'. This one should not only give you an unbiased opinion, but he or she should be able to do proofreading as well. This is what we mean by a polished manuscript; very, very few to no errors of any sort.

4. Do your research. Look up the submission guidelines for each house you want to submit to. Follow them as closely as absolutely possible. If the house says it's closed for submissions, it's closed. Don’t submit, move on to the next one on the list. If in doubt, query.

5. Send it out, one at a time. If you are an impatient sort and your choice markets allow for simultaneous submissions, go for it – just remember to let them know it's a simul-sub, and if it gets accepted, let the other markets know.

Good luck, and I'll see you at the finish line!

*Fornit – a creation of Stephen King in his short story "The Battle of the Flexible Bullet". A small creature that lives inside a typewriter. Mine lives inside an antique Royal.

BIO: Jodi Lee has been writing and working as a professional editor for nine years. Her work has appeared in Apex Digest, The Blessed Bee, newWitch, Nocturnal Ooze, Night to Dawn, and the recently released collection Vampires – In Their Own Words. Her short horror fiction has been featured in multiple anthologies.

Jodi currently serves as Editor in Chief for LBF Books, senior editor for Lachesis Publishing, and Submissions/Copy Editor at Apex Book Publishing. You can find her online at Jodi Lee Bleeds, as well as on MySpace and Facebook.


s.w. vaughn said...

This is great advice, Jodi. Thanks for tackling NaNo as an editor - and I hope everyone doing it this year takes heed, and produces wonderful stories!

I remember fornits. That story creeped me out for years. Never looked at a typewriter the same after that!

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Jodi, thanks for guest blogging today on Murder by 4 - it's a pleasure to have you here. Your candor is delightful, and there are so many parallels to the angst we all suffer from time to time. In my case, it's the promotional and editing stuff that has squashed my free writing time this year. Just finished the final (sure, right!) edits on one book, got it to my publisher, and am now finally free to write fresh again. Man, it feels good. So good! I hope that NaNo provides you the same pure writing joy! Come back soon. ;o)

Pat Bertram said...

It's interesting how we let other activities, such as jobs or blogging, take us away from doing what we really want to be doing -- writing. I planned to do NaNoWriMo this year, but I'm afraid that if I wait another month, I many never get back to my novel. So I'm declaring October as BerNoWriMo (Bertram Novel Writing Month). I've left my poor hero running from a volcano for the past four months. Maybe I'll finally be able to get him to safety. Poor guy is exhausted!

Good luck with NaNoWriMo!

Jodi Lee (Morrighan) said...

Thanks for having me, folks, it was a delight!

S.W. - I should really clean the Royal and take a picture of it someday. Right now it's under a layer of books, clothes and stuff that I think might be Apex swag... I do think I see little footprints in the dust though. ;)

Aaron - I sometimes think edits are never 'final'... one can only hope a second edition doesn't require too much, LOL. Best of luck with your new project!

;) Pat, save that poor man! I spend far too much time blogging, and not enough working on fiction. But as long as I'm getting some words out, no matter what kind, I'm pretty happy.

Now if they'd add another hour or two to the day, that'd be even better. ;)

Kim Smith said...

In some respects, Nano is such a great tool. But in some ways, it is a dangerous thing. Those writers who do not know whether what they have written is good or not, definitely should check out your list. Getting a second pair of eyes on it is a a must.

Thanks Jodi!