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Jay Dubya

Articles
- Learning Novel' Writing from Agents and Editors
- Starting An Internet e-Publishing Business Was Not Easy

Learning Novel' Writing from Agents and Editors
by Jay Dubya
Page 1 of 4

So, you just wrote your first science fiction novel. Your friend read it and told you that you were the next Ray Bradbury or Gene Roddenberry. Your fertile mind fantasizes your name up there on a Borders’ wall poster right next to images of Isaac Azimov and Jules Verne. Before going off the deep end and equating yourself with Hemingway and Steinbeck, give your ego a stiff reality check.

Few of us mortals are literary Mozarts that can plop down in front of a computer screen and author a perfect manuscript the first time around.. Let’s get one thing straight right now. You wrote a manuscript and not a book. After an author takes the time and care to read, edit and rewrite the manuscript at least five times, the work has finally evolved into a publishable book’ manuscript.

Literary agents have represented my books. Truthfully, I never learned too much from literary agents except that they will show a strong interest in you and your work only if publishers and film producers do. If the power brokers in the literary world think your work is marketable, then you are a viable commodity. If you have no track record in the publishing industry, then forget all about your friend’s praise and about your inflated ego. You’re going to have to accept criticism from your agency’s editors, compromise ideas and plots in your artistic masterpiece, rewrite paragraphs, sentences and pages to conform to editorial evaluations, admit making errors, learn from these "mistakes" and avoid them when constructing future "manuscripts."

Although I never learned too much from my literary agents, I absorbed plenty from editors I had worked with. It took me three years to finally master what the editors considered the "mechanics of the writing craft." I reluctantly learned that good writing involves much more than the demonstration of grammar, spelling and punctuation skills. I picked up a hundred or so suggestions from my "literary editors," and I will share some of them now.

To facilitate good transitions and chapter’ integrity, don’t begin sentences and/or paragraphs with pronouns (when writing in the third person). Stay away from "lazy sentence patterns" such as starting out with "There are" or "There is." And above all else, if you plan to be original and creative, stay away from using stereotypical’ cliches and hackneyed idioms.

A good sci-fi’ novel or any other genre’ novel should first be a "love story" at its core’ construction with the genre’ decoration adroitly wrapped around that core. For example, H.G. Wells’ classic breakthrough novel’ The Time Machine is at its core a love story between the Time Traveler and Weena, and secondly, it is an adventure story about the conflicts between the Eloi and the Morlocks. In Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, the success of the novel has as much to do with the struggle in the main character’ Guy Montag’s personal love’ relationship with his dysfunctional drugo’ wife as it does with the tyrannical government controlled by the powerful fire department that Montag works for. Montag is searching for love as much as he is in quest of truth and justice. So, if you think that sci-fi’ is simply about alien invasions, green-headed monsters, laser attacks and wars between planets with lots of action scenes, you are dooming your manuscript to both mediocr ity and to commercial failure. Your main character must have love or/and must be searching for it.

The main character cannot be a villain or an evil person. Perhaps he could start out that way, but he must change for the better as the story progresses, and the quicker, the better. He or she must be a protagonist that the reader can sympathize with and care about. The reader has to identify with the main character’s noble conscience and his (or her) empathy for others.

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