Sunday, February 01, 2015

The Week in Review 2/1/15


I'm so glad the week in review posts are popular! I enjoy doing them too.  This week's is a tad late cause of the writing contest but I figure no one will complain about those!
Last week's review had a comment, on the Facebook link about how to build tension, from Mister Furkle:
Suspense is harder than tension. Your post, on Facebook, appeared to be about suspense not tension.

Please correct me if I'm wrong but:

Tension is needed on every page; it happens when a character is upset, two characters disagree, or the MC is trying to do something difficult.

Suspense is created when the reader doesn't know what will happen but desperately needs to know. Will the mission be a success or will the MC's party be captured? How will Anne Frank meet her demise?

Tension keeps the readers' attention while reading a page and suspense makes them plunge into the next scene or chapter.

Of these two, suspense is harder to create.

And if I'm mistaken, let me know. Also, any references to methods to manage suspense would be most welcome.

Well, you're not wrong, or mistaken but I think distinguishing suspense from tension will make us all insane. You did point that a good novel does need tension on every page: that's what keeps us engaged in the story. And we do need to be in suspense about the overall narrative arc.  How many times have we put down a book and said "wow, I sure didn't expect THAT" and meant it as a compliment.

Whether we call it tension or suspense doesn't matter to me, as long as it's THERE! 

Colin Smith mentioned an episode of Columbo called "Publish or Perish" where Mickey Spillane gets knocked off by evil Jack Cassidy.  Of course I had to see what clue the literary agent provided so I watched it on Saturday afternoon.  There's a small throwaway part where Columbo references "this guy, he's just a sergeant, he's had some books" and of course he means Joseph Wambaugh who was a detective sergeant in the LAPD when his first few books were written.  I'm not exactly sure of the timing here but this episode says 1973 and The Onion Field, Wambaugh's big breakout non-fiction book was pubbed in 73. 
Mariette Hartley played the literary agent, so I had to google those great old Polaroid commercials she did with James Garner (boy they hold up well!) and came across an episode of What's My Line from 1963 or so. James Garner was the celebrity guest.  More than anything else on the show though, the formal good manners of the guest, host and panel were amazing to watch.  The men stood up to shake hands with each panelist as they left, they refer to each other as Mr. and Mrs/Miss (Ms hadn't been invented yet!) and there weren't any sort of naughty undercurrent puns or joking references.  (All that changes within about ten years I think)

On Monday we were mostly watching for snow. The weather forecasters had descended into hyperbole by 3pm and when one of our office suite mates said the subways would be closing, the Minion and I looked at each other and said "we're outta here."  As it turned out that walk to the subway on Monday was the worst part of the storm for both of us. 

And the subways DID get "shut down" but only for passengers. The trains themselves ran all night which meant that the people who needed them most (people without cars working in service industries like food prep  and retail janitorial) weren't able to actually get home.  I was astonished to learn that Governor Cuomo made the shutdown decision unilaterally.  I ranted about it (and I'm still not over it!) on my Facebook page.

On Wednesday the topic was print book rights versus print and ebook rights bundled.

Pharosian asked: 
Janet - just curious about your position. If the "Hugh Howey of crime fiction" queried you about trying to obtain a print-only deal, would you turn him or her down? If so, why?

Yes, I've also heard that print-only deals are less likely now than they were when Wool made its big splash because there is a perception that the market has already been tapped out by the e-book. But I also heard that Wool went on to sell an additional 5 million print copies.

I'd say no because I don't know where I'd sell it. The editors I work with are only interested in bundled deals, even if they only intend to print e-versions initially.  I don't know about Hugh Howey's sales figures but his agent is Kristen Nelson and she's pretty darn good at her job so I wouldn't be surprised at all to hear he'd done well.

And Kitty, oh my god what a blast from the past to hear about POD-dy Mouth again. The really interesting thing about that interview with Editor One however was that they were CLEARLY confusing self-publishing with print-on-demand.  POD is a technology; HOW the books are printed and in what quantities. Major publishers use POD to fulfill unexpected demand or shipment delays.  Self-publishing folks certainly use print on demand often, but they also use traditional web-feed printers as well. 
I hammered on that distinction for YEARS as I recall. (That interview was 2005)

 On Thursday's post about pub credits Julie Weathers said:

I wrote for a weekly, award-winning, national horse racing magazine for twenty-three years. In addition to doing race stories, I also did profiles and human interest stories.

I have had a LOT of people recommend I not include this in my query because this has nothing to do with writing fantasy. I did anyway for two reasons. 1. I wrote well enough for twenty-three years for a magazine to send me a paycheck every two years weeks (glad to hear that was a typo!). Two, it might demonstrate I understand the value of deadlines.

Julie's right. the others are wrong. Writing regularly for a magazine IS a pub credit to mention. If writing this blog has taught me nothing else, it has taught me the value of writing to a deadline six or seven days a week.  And regular writing is the ONLY way to improve. I'm not a novelist (although at this point the word count on the blog rivals some SF trilogy I think) but I talk about writing to writers a LOT and it sure helps to have some idea of how it works when I do so.

The only time you don't include magazine writing credits is if you've got a list of novels you've published that are more recent.

On Thursday's post about an agent who left a querier dangling, Julie Martin Munro summed up one of the biggest career-killers there is in writing:

I had a similar experience and my gut told me to do just what you've advised, but . These words I didn't...I was too afraid to rock the boat, ruffle feathers, I don't know what. I ended up losing a year of querying...and much hope tooalone "And I do reply" tells me I should've followed my gut. Thank you.

I cannot emphasize enough that this is YOUR career, and agents work WITH you; they are not demi-gods (ok, other than ME of course) to be approached like the King of Siam.

Turns out CarolynnWith2Ns has decided to do some painting! It's too cold here in NYC to paint yet but I'm getting the itch after reading that!

On the office front this week was the culmination of a move that started in August 2012. We ditched our old space on 35th Street for the new digs on 29th. Loved the new space, but soon found it had some limitations…like it was too small, and the Minion either froze or fried with the ac unit by her desk. 

When one of our suitemates decided to give up his office, we pounced on it.  After painting it, getting the phone/internet moved, it was time to move the rest of us.

I've always said "this is New York City, you can rent anything" and I was glad to discover you can rent handsome strong men to move furniture.  Jason was pretty amazing. He showed up exactly on time, started working, never sat down once, and had us out and in record time. 
Now the fun stuff starts: getting the books back on the shelves, the art back on the walls, and the liquor cabinet positioned.  Oh who am I kidding. The bar was the FIRST thing we set up.

I meant to post pictures here but as usual, time got the better of me, so the photos will have to wait.

I'm working on the blog posts for next week and there are some good ones! See you then.


DLM said...

The WIR makes this feel ever more like a community, Janet. Thank you for providing such a remarkable place online, where this varied, interesting, and collegial group could become a little party every day.

A number of us have observed the cross-pollination between this blog and the BookEnds blog, but there's also been an increasing network between us, reading and commenting on each other's blogs and supporting one another. I know I try to check profiles here and find new places to read and link to, and it gives me joy to see comments from friends here on my own blog.

Thank you for providing this creative social hub. I've been more challenged and invigorated in my own online efforts, and y'all keep me inspired, too, to keep up the querying and research and even a little writing now and then!

Terri Lynn Coop said...

Awesome as always and it reminded me of a moving moment.

Back in law school I moved into an awesome second floor apartment. I had several large antiques, so I hired a local mover.

The lead was a dead ringer for a young David Caruso (ala NYPD Blue.) I was younger and thinner then, so a small bit of flirting occurred.

At the end of a long exhausting day, my doorbell rang. I opened the door to find David Caruso holding one of my lampshades that had been "accidentally" left on the truck.

What did I do?

WHAT DID I DO? (Can you feel the tension?)

I took the lampshade, said "thank you," and closed the door.

I *facepalm* to this day, some 20 years later.

There is no opportunity like an opportunity lost . . .


DLM said...

You have a story there! "The Accidental Lampshade" (or you could go the Dave Barry route, because "that would make a great name for a band").

D. B. Bates said...

Regarding Mr. Furkle's comment, I've always thought of the distinction between tension and suspense differently (perhaps a result of my dramaturgical background). That said, I am insane, so take my thoughts with a grain of salt.

Tension and dramatic conflict are almost always about the unknown, with answers either coming quickly ("Why is this character upset? Oh, he's at his parents' funeral...") or over time ("Why are these two characters disagreeing? [400 pages later] Oh, the villain blames our hero's childhood bullying for his killing spree..."). Tension and suspense are often viewed as synonyms, but I don't see them as that. Suspense is one of many forms of tension, used to propel a reader forward. If tension is about the unknown, then what makes suspense unique? Why isn't it just a synonym?

Suspense is about what's known to the reader, but not the characters. In Alfred Hitchcock's famous bomb-under-the-table analogy, what makes the scene suspenseful is the fact that the audience knows the bomb is there, but the characters in the scene don't. Suspense interacts with readers' engagement and imagination by giving us a cheat sheet that the characters don't have. We're asking, "How are they going to get out of a jam they don't even know they're in?"

The questions we ask in a suspenseful scene do rely on what we don't know (that's how it creates tension), but we're only asking the questions because of what we do know. If we didn't know about the bomb, we'd simply be asking why these two characters met at a restaurant for polite chitchat.

Other forms of tension are created by giving us less information than the characters have, not more. What keeps us reading is a desire to catch up with what the characters already know. Suspense creates tension in the opposite way, and it engages readers' imaginations in a different way.

Jed Cullan said...

I think the "week in review" is a brilliantly inspired addition to the blog. A little disappointed the office move was completed before I arrived, as I had plans for the cake fridge.

Don't worry, I'll get there early for your next move in three years.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I do love reading this blog, the comments, the wrapups, everything. The advice here is the querying/agent advice yardstick against which I measure other information I hear/read (and it's interesting to see how other agents answer similar questions).

Especially as I phase towards querying (still waiting on readers, sigh), I poke around in the archives an awful lot, and look at Query Shark as well.

Megan V said...

Thanks again for the week in review! I love reading this blog (it's the best part of my morning ritual, right up there with the mug of hot chocolate). That said, I especially enjoy reading the comments. There's a great community here.

Colin Smith said...

I hope all this blog activity isn't too much of a time drain for you Janet, considering you have clients to look after. Checking your blog and offering my 2 cents (or $2 depending on the topic) is a part of my daily routine. Even before checking the news. Is that bad? :) The WiR is the cherry on the chocolate rum cake. :D

I'm in awe. I would NEVER have picked up on that reference in "Publish or Perish." Makes me wonder how many other such in-jokes for the well-read (like you) there are in other Columbo stories--especially the other writing/publishing related ones ("Murder by the Book" and "Try and Catch Me"). This of course makes me feel embarrassed about how relatively little I've read of a genre I profess to enjoy. But then I remind myself that it's not only your passion, but it's your JOB to know this stuff, which is why you're so good at it.

The blog is very good writing practice for you, Janet, just as Barbara's WD column is good practice for her. Which means SNARK AND SHARK'S GUIDE TO PUBLISHING will be a well-written book. Just let us know when you need beta readers.

If you ever want a vacation in NC, you'd be welcome to visit with us. I'll supply the paint. :D

And I agree, Diane. This blog is building a lovely community that doesn't stop with the comments. I too am building a list of blogs to visit from people here.

Looking forward to next week's posts. See you all there... :D

Colin Smith said...

BTW: In "Publish or Perish" Columbo makes reference to a case he worked on involving a senator. That was the Columbo episode "Candidate for Crime" which was two stories before "Publish or Perish." I got *that* reference! I need to watch less Columbo and read more... *sigh*

AJ Blythe said...

Thanks to a leaking shower we're about to paint (we've chosen dulux 'silver beige' with 'camel' trim). It's nice and warm Down Under at the moment, and I have a spare brush...

Also loving the weekly wrap, so rather pleased you like writing it.

SiSi said...

The Week in Review posts keep getting better and better! I'm glad you missed out on the big snow on Monday--unfortunately, our snowy forecast for today seems to have been right on target. We're getting our biggest snow of the winter today in SE Michigan.

F.Lowers McGrath said...

I can add to the week in review that the mini seminar was brill. Ms. Reid rocks as well in person as she does in blogosphere! Thanks Jet! 😄

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I'm four gallons into Kilim Beige. With a paint roller and 1" sash brush permanently grafted to my right hand it makes typing an interesting endeavor.

Love my paint and I love the WIR.

DLM is right, this is a great creative social hub. I feel like we're all a bunch of wonky writers bellying up to our own Cheers bar.

Anonymous said...

Did you all hear that? That was my sigh of bliss..., another stellar WiR. I've been crazy busy for the last three days and after reading and catching up, now I feel like I can face the week!