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Ms. Farr is a romance writer.
3/21/05 7:03:15 PM Opening "Chat Log 3/21/05"
Rose1533: Howdy, Paul
HOST WPLC Sushi: Hi all
Recknor: Hi, Sushi
Beccastrat: Hi Paul :-)
HOST WPLC Lyric: We'll have a few moments of free chat while we're waiting
for everyone to get here
DianeFarr: Okay, everybody. Settle down. This is SERIOUS STUFF. ;)
HOST WPLC Lyric: Ellen, while we're waiting, anything you'd like to plug?
Recknor: THE LEGENDARY KID DONOVAN, coming out this fall from Signet. <G>
HOST WPLC Sushi: cool
HOST WPLC Lyric: wonderful!
DianeFarr: Ellen's about to tell us about THE LEGENDARY KID DONOVAN, which is about to be published by Signet in the fall
Recknor: Teenaged boy is orphaned in 1882, yanked from a posh NY state prep
school and sent to live with Uncle in Arizona; Uncle is dead when he arrives
to find out that he's inherited a whorehouse.
HOST WPLC Dee R: wonderful news
DianeFarr: holy cow! That's GREAT
HOST WPLC Lyric: oh! That's great!
Recknor: Thanks, <G>
HOST WPLC Sushi: what a premise
G1ft0fgabn0t: Hello roomies :)
HOST WPLC Lyric: DIANE FARR has spent most of her life with her nose in a
book; sometimes reading, sometimes writing. During her first two years as a
published author she was a 4-time finalist for the prestigious RITA award, and she is the recipient of a Golden Quill award for excellence in romantic fiction as well as a Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award and Career Achievement Award.
She lives in Northern California with two cats, a computer, and the most wonderful husband in the universe. Diane has over 300,000 books in print. She has published 8
novels, 4 plays and a short story in an anthology. Tonight, Diane is going to tell us about a few of the changes in the Romance market, and then tell us how to submit to publishers as well as the agent/nonagent route. I hope I have that all right!
DianeFarr: I'm basically going to cover it ALL. Everything you need to know. ;)
HOST WPLC Lyric: In any case, please help me welcome Diane back to Writing
DianeFarr: Glad to see you all again!
HOST WPLC Lyric: Yes, from this moment on we're in protocol, gang
Lightningbug1957: Welcome back, Diane! Thanks for coming
DianeFarr: Well, I don't have any prepared remarks. Gulp. But I can give you
a quick couple of sentences about the Romance market, and how genre fiction
is doing in general.
HOST WPLC Lyric: yes, but very loosely tonight unless we have to get tough,
DianeFarr: Times are tight. There are lots and lots of competing media, and
people have less time to read. So the markets are tightening up in general.
Things must be bigger, better, MORE.
In Romance, for example, romantic suspense -- what they used to
call "damsel in distress" novels -- are still selling well. Contemporary
romantic suspense in particular.
Historicals are doing well, too, provided they feature steamy sex. I couldn't tell you why steamy sex is all they are buying, because I don't get it, myself. I mean, why historicals?? But hey. That's what is selling. Similar to TV, what publishers are looking for is "exactly what was a big hit last year, only different."
They're afraid of losing money if they venture too far outside the boundaries of what has already been successful.
So they want what has already been written, basically. Only
different. :: sigh::
And if you think that's hard to write, you're correct. In all genre fiction, emotions must be stirred right off the bat. Whether it's suspense and fear, or steamy sex, whatever grabs the reader and keeps him/her turning the pages is what they want.
No more can you lead in with graceful "scene-setting" stuff.
They don't care about a carefully-drawn setup. They want you to plunge right into the action. So that's the bad news. And the good news. If you can plug into this, if you can write really punchy, grabby, knock-their-socks-off hooks, your book WILL sell.
Recknor: Diane, do you think this "action from the start? Thing has to do with people, in general, being less thoughtful and more oriented toward
instant gratification than in the past?
DianeFarr: It certainly has to do with EDITORS being that way. :)
But I do think, in general, all entertainment -- and fiction is entertainment, bottom line -- has gotten faster-paced. The MTV effect. Or something.
HOST WPLC Lyric: Diane, I always here from new writers, well, in this book or that book, they didn't start right with the action.
Trina Pink: USA Today did it even before MTV
HOST WPLC Lyric: Could you please discuss how important, or whether it's important for newer writers to follow the current trends or to buck traditions right from the start? (people here know where I stand on this btw. LOL)
DianeFarr: If you want to buck tradition, it's best to wait until you are already an established author. Sad but true. I'm talking about genre fiction, btw -- if you can buck the trends in lit fic, more power to you.
DianeFarr: But genre fiction has a very specific niche it is trying to fill.
And you have to fill it by MEETING your readers' expectations, not letting
them down. We've all had that experience, where you go to a movie and say, "Gee, that was great -- until the end." If the hero dies in the end, or the good guys DON'T win, or the detective never finds the murderer, you feel cheated. That's your expectations not being met. That's what that feeling is.
Lera al: Diane, can you identify one current novel that meets all this 'updated' criteria?
DianeFarr: aw, shucks, lemme think!
Lera al: hard one??
DianeFarr: yep, because I tend to read old stuff, lol
DianeFarr: OK, it's lit fic, but think of THE LOVELY BONES. You don't start out hearing about the POV character's life, town, family, etc. You are plunged directly into the situation. And that's a terrible example, btw. If anyone else has a GOOD example, please pitch in!
KatsEye 116: I don't know that it has to be action so much as a hook. A hook
simply has to grab your attention.
DianeFarr: Absolutely. That's good way to look at it. But also, you can't cheat by having a great hook and then dribbling out three chapters of backstory. You must follow the great hook with page-turning action. "Action" being loosely defined, of course. I don't mean car chases, necessarily. But you can't hook 'em and then throw 'em back out of the boat.
BluePseudoSkirt: Recent brief articles in Entertainment news... New York Times? ...
say that movies with adult sex are now consistent money losers. Another
change in the wind? But when we find out our hard work is already being rejected?
DianeFarr: oh, now, THAT's interesting. Speaking purely personally, that would be a welcome trend. Some of you are already aware of my struggles to "spice up" my historicals to meet the market demands. Frankly, putting hot sex in my books is like putting mustard on ice cream.
KatsEye 116: An example of a more recent novel is Jodi Picoult's My Sister's
Keeper. Opening line is "When I was little, the great mystery to me wasn't how babies were made, but why."
DianeFarr: Nothing wrong with mustard, and I'm glad people enjoy it. But I'm having a hard time integrating it into MY recipes.
HOST WPLC Lyric: lol
Trina Pink: Actually, if Blue is referring to the NYT article I read, it's SERIOUS sex that isn't selling. Humorous, or fun sex is still selling.
HOST WPLC Lyric: thanks for pointing that out, Katrina
HOST WPLC Dee R: good comment
BluePseudoSkirt: You read the whole thing!
HOST WPLC Lyric: Diane, will you please go ahead with your lecture?
DianeFarr: Humorous sex I can do.
DianeFarr: Lecture? gulp.
HOST WPLC Lyric: Katrina always reads the whole thing! LOL
Dhewco: (sex is fun? hmmm, who woulda thunk it), sorry
DianeFarr: Ummm .... what I was hoping to talk about tonight was actual
HOST WPLC Lyric: okay, lets get in order guys
HOST WPLC Lyric: yes, Diane, please do
DianeFarr: It's all very well to think of ourselves as "writing to publish," but when push comes to shove, there are always doubts, fears, questions, etc. All the stuff that makes us hesitate
And I'd love to be able to tell you, "Everything that makes you hesitate is nonsense. Stop worrying about it. Submit." Too bad I can't say that. Some of the stuff you are worrying about is legit!
But how to differentiate between the legitimate concerns and the nitpicky stuff?
I have known authors who obsess over fonts and margins until they convince themselves that their ms isn't ready, never will be. Authors who find excuse after excuse to keep writing, keep tinkering, keep making changes, rather than send their baby out the door into the cold, cruel world.
Fear of rejection is natural. Even, to some extent, fear of success is natural -- or at least common. But you can't win if you don't play. So at some point, you have to recognize whether you are really revising -- i.e., IMPROVING -- your book. or whether you are merely changing it.
And if you are no longer making changes that improve, and are only making changes that change, you have reached the point where it's time to submit.
Now. What should concern you? Believe it or not, there is a secret handshake. The secret handshake, the one that tips the editors/agents off that you are a professional and know what you're doing, is manuscript format. Which is totally dumb and demeaning to your work. I know this. But if you send your romance novel off, printed on a delicate pink paper in a really pretty font, your self-expression is going to get your
ms. dumped in the recycle bin.
Likewise the Western where you use that "Stagecoach" font for your chapter headings. Well, maybe you could get away with it on chapter headings. But for heavens' sake, don't print it on buckskin.
HOST WPLC Lyric: ha ha
DianeFarr: I'm not going to go over all the rules, because they've been written down a number of times and you can find them lots of places. I'm just stressing that yes, if you had any questions about it, that stuff is important.
HOST WPLC Lyric: Diane, would you list a few, please for our newer authors? and maybe a place to start looking?
DianeFarr: And the reason why it's important is, it tips them off -- at first glance -- that you are not some hopeless crank who is sending them your novel written in longhand on a legal pad. Or whatever.
Okay, basically, Courier 12 pt. font. Double spaced. One inch margins. A header on every page, thus: At the left margin, title/your name. At the right margin, Page #. Like this: GONE WITH THE WIND/Mitchell Page 331
DianeFarr: And please, every word processing program has a way to do this for you automatically. If you don't know how, find someone who does. Don't type your header on every page.
You ALL knew that. :)
HOST WPLC Lyric: believe me, many did not
DianeFarr: well, then, I'm glad I insulted you all by mentioning it. :)
Oh, I'm not done. It wouldn't be a secret handshake if it were that easy, would it? Every chapter must begin on a fresh page, halfway down the page. This includes Chapter One. Start halfway down the page, with "Chapter One" centered. Paragraphs are indented, but not double spaced. (Remember, the document is already double spaced.) And do NOT use "widow/orphan" or "keep text together" or whatever your word processing program calls it.
HOST WPLC Lyric: why not Diane?
DianeFarr: The object of the game is, you MUST have the exact same number of
lines on every page (except for the first page of every chapter). And that
number of lines must be 25, 26 or 27. Preferably 25. But whatever it is, the SAME number of line on every page. This is all deadly dull, I know. Let's have a question, shall we?
HOST WPLC Lyric: okay
TBushpurr: Diane, should you write in that format, or prepare your ms in that format? If you are still writing, doesn't it make more sense to use what would be an actual book format ... single spaced etc? to make it easier to read and edit? ga
HOST WPLC Lyric: btw, this is NOT dull, for me anyway
DianeFarr: Personally, I think it's easier to write the whole book in the format you're going to send it in. Although I loathe Courier, so I never work in that font. But I do format the document with the lines per page, etc., because part of the game is knowing your "word count." They will want to know your word count. Every publishing line (again, I'm talking genre fiction, here) has a word count requirement. And I put "word count" in quotes because the word count your computer is going to give you, when you ask it, is the REAL word count. And, predictably, that isn't what the publishers want.
But if you are writing the book in the "magic format," you are going to know that you have, approximately, 250 words per page.
HOST WPLC Lyric: Diane can you clarify that?
DianeFarr: Which means that a 100,000 word book is going to be 400 ms. pages. Et cetera.
HOST WPLC Lyric: do you mean it should be an approximate word count?
DianeFarr: No ... hmm .... what the publishers are trying to do is, figure out how much
paper it will take to print your book. Because that's a cost factor to them, obviously.
HOST WPLC Lyric: yes, but which number do we put on the top of page one? and in our queries?
DianeFarr: And "250 words per page" is only true if you have 10 words in every line, 25 lines on every page. So if one of your lines contains merely the dialog line: "What?" -- you obviously don't have 250 words on that page. Your computer will dutifully tell you the number of words you REALLY have typed in your document. But the publisher has to use the same amount of paper whether it prints "What?" on that line, or the whole 10 words. So it wants you to count your ms. as "100,000 words" if it's 400
manuscript pages -- even if your computer (and you) know darn well that your
book is loaded with dialog and is, therefore, only 83,317 words.
HOST WPLC Lyric: so we take whichever number of pages and multiply by 250
regardless of the actual word count? and use that number?
DianeFarr: I know that's a totally screwy explanation, but I'm hoping it will make sense to you all when you read it in the transcript!
HOST WPLC Lyric: providing we use the standard number of lines that yield
Recknor: YES, Lyric!
DianeFarr: Lyric, you got it. ;)
Satin Puzzle: Made sense, Diane....well done.
HOST WPLC Lyric: okay, hope everyone else did too
TBushpurr: (somehow that sounds illegal)
Rose1533: I'm an old-school typer. Is two spaces after a period, colon, etc. still acceptable?
HOST WPLC Lyric: oh yes, we argue about this all the time! lol
DianeFarr: Okay, here's what changed that: proportional fonts. The REAL answer to your question is, no. Sorry!! But there are easy ways around that. At least in Word Perfect! Word users, please chime in ... in Word Perfect, you can set your computer to automatically change two spaces to one space every time you accidentally hit two spaces. And believe me, after long years of habit, you WILL hit two spaces on a regular basis. I speak from experience ;)
Rose1533: I hope Word does, too, or I'm in trouble!
DianeFarr: If everyone understood that about proportional fonts?
HOST WPLC Dee R: Carol...if you consciously make the effort to not do it, it
ends up being second nature...I know...cause I made the switch
Trina Pink: Wow. This word count hint is great. Thank you.
Dhewco: you said same number of lines per page...does that count scene breaks? Do you count scene breaks as a line?
DianeFarr: David, you're talking scene breaks within chapters?
DianeFarr: good question, btw
DianeFarr: I'm glad you asked that. A scene break within a chapter should be designated by a blank line between the paragraphs, and in the center of the blank line you should type either * * * or # # #
DianeFarr: I hope that's clear. You end the paragraph, hit return, center
three asterisks or three pound signs, then hit return again, indent and keep
Lightningbug1957: So the blank line is not blank?
DianeFarr: That's to make sure that the typesetter notices the blank line.
DianeFarr: Right, don't leave the blank line blank. :)
DianeFarr: If you leave the blank line blank, the typesetter may either not notice it, or think it's simply a typo on your part.
BluePseudoSkirt: And all these years I thought *** in a book meant the
protagonist was having sex, but politely off the page.
HOST WPLC Lyric: then Diane if you'd please finish your presentation
DianeFarr: LOL ... sometimes it means exactly that.
HOST WPLC Lyric: Diane, this is very important stuff
HOST WPLC Lyric: any other help on submission format?
DianeFarr: Well, I think I'm out of time, but I guess I covered a lot of what I wanted to cover. I didn't get to the nuts and bolts of how you know you're ready to submit, etc.
but that would take up a whole session anyway.
Cyncity 1: Thanks Diane!
Trina Pink: Oh, geez. How soon can you come back?
HOST WPLC Dee R: hey, sounds like another session request for a return
Trina Pink: I need that!
Satin Puzzle: Nicely done, Diane. Thanks
HOST WPLC Lyric: yes, Diane, would you please come back and do it in more detail?
G1ft0fgabn0t: How about doing another session then? Please?
DianeFarr: Mechanics is always dull, but believe me, it's important!
HOST WPLC Dee R: Diane, we'd love to have you back for another session. to get to the nuts and bolts of how you know you're ready
HOST WPLC Lyric: or maybe prepare a worksheet for us, or send the group a
Recknor: Thank you, Diane. This sort of thing is not addressed often
enough, and you did a great job!
G1ft0fgabn0t: Diane, thanks for a wonderful and informative session.
Lera al: :-D:-* my 'smilies' are getting ready for some really hot, but
humorous, sex...excuse them
HOST WPLC Lyric: Thank you so much for coming Diane!
HOST WPLC Lyric: it wasn't boring, it was very vital information!
DianeFarr: my pleasure!!!!!
Trina Pink: diane, this was truly fabulous. Thank you. Very much what I
HOST WPLC Sushi: THANKS Diane!!!!!!
MoonCat25: This was great tonight! Thank you Diane!
DianeFarr: I can always come back and shoot off my mouth for another hour. You all KNOW this about me.
HOST WPLC Lyric: I will pin her down, gang, don't worry
HOST WPLC Lyric: Thanks Diane and thank you to all the non members who stopped by and had such great manners tonight!
Lightningbug1957: Good night everyone
DianeFarr: yeah!!!!!! Thanks, everyone for your incredible COURTESY
G1ft0fgabn0t: It's been fun but I've got to run. Nite y'all *s*
TheUsurpKing: Diane, good job, from what I could see of it. I'm still having trouble with aol. Please accept my apology for being late.
DianeFarr: no problem! I hope you get the transcript
HOST WPLC Lyric: okay, goodnight all. and I'm sending bodyguards to escort Diane from the building <G>
HOST WPLC Dee R: night, Lyric...and thanks for all your hard work...
RLMorgan51: Are you related to DIANE FARR the actress or JAMIE FARR
DianeFarr: <--- anxiously awaiting the bodyguards
DianeFarr: My dad had 64 1st cousins, RL, so who knows? I think I'm related to Felicia Farr, an actress from way back
DianeFarr: good night
3/21/05 8:12:16 PM Closing "Chat Log 3/21/05"
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