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Via a Twitter link, I came upon Infodump, Mary Sue, and Other Words That Authors Are Sick of Hearing. I'm a little bit in love with it, truly. Don't even attempt the comments unless you want to watch a rehash of the years-long debate of what Mary Sue actually means, and what every single commenter means when they use it. Trust me: if you weren't sick of hearing Mary Sue before reading the comments, you will be after. It's rather interesting, though, that of all the terms in the article, it's the Mary Sue that got most folks all a-chatter.

A brief Twitter conversation came up between some writers, including the comment that new writers are told not to use the omniscient viewpoint because editors don't want to see it. I do wonder how many lovely books have been lost over the years because of that.

If you haven't already, head over to Maggie's journal for The Uncomfortable Trail-Blazer. (There you'll also find a link to the interview she did with Publishers Weekly, which is, y'know, pretty darn cool.) Pay close attention to the section on the publishing reality of 100 good books for only 45 publishing slots: "At the end of the day, there were 1000 books worth publishing, and 45 got through the door. And there was nothing the remaining 955 authors could have done to better their chances. "Write a better book" is false advice, because many better books still failed. "Write a more marketable book" is better advice, but it requires you to understand the market, be willing to write to it, and get it to someone before the trends change... and the book still might fail"

That cannot be said enough, and writers deserve to know it, understand it, and plan their careers accordingly.

Lastly, Publishers Weekly presented The Rise of the Seven-Figure Advance. Ostensibly, the article is about a seeming increase in mega-advances being given out, particularly to writers who have no BookScan records. But it's really quite a peek into how the industry is evolving, and it's the first time I've seen mention of certain predictions come to pass. As reasons for high advances, anonymous insiders say the "pool of talent is shrinking" because there are now fewer submissions, and publishers are having to prove themselves because of the success being found in self-publishing.

Really, truly, go read the whole thing because that little article just quietly confirmed publishers and agents are now caught up with the backlog of slush enough to realize the number of manuscripts that aren't there anymore.

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
asakiyume
Nov. 27th, 2014 02:21 am (UTC)
The "rules" (thinking about your remark about omniscient point of view, and people being warned off doing certain things in writing)--I like what you said: that the only rule is to write something that connects with readers.

I'm reading this collection of stories, many of them personal reminiscences (though not all are, I don't think) of travel by train in India--or just about the trains, period, in India. And so many of these break "the rules." Some are heavy handed in their morals (I mean, they spell out what message they're intending to put out), and some take odd digressions--and yet I'm loving them. I'm loving those exact ones, because this deviation from what I think of as a polished essay is so refreshing.

I'll read "The Rise of the Seven-Figure Advance"--what a thought!
blairmacg
Nov. 30th, 2014 01:32 pm (UTC)
Those essays on trains sound fascinating! Would you mind sharing the title?

I find realism in personal essays and accounts to be so refreshing; a steady diet of the polish can be wearying.

asakiyume
Nov. 30th, 2014 04:23 pm (UTC)
I'd be happy to! The title is Railonama: Unforgettable Train Stories, and the editor is Anupama Sharma. It's published by Good Times Books, which is an Indian publishing company--I got it in a Goodreads giveaway--but it's available through Amazon here.
blairmacg
Dec. 1st, 2014 06:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you!!
nipernaadiagain
Nov. 27th, 2014 01:10 pm (UTC)
That reminds me I should write about the best Mary Sue of them all.

A male one, but who DID write himself into a fictional hero so successfully that when he died at age 32, he did so on a street named in his honor.

Then again, I have never understood that "Mary Sue has to be female and worthless". I have understood that Mary Sue has to have the wish fulfillment part and "making everything about herself" - so a person who writes a character that becomes seen as the person of the writer, it does seem to be the ultimate Mary Sue, does it not?
blairmacg
Nov. 30th, 2014 01:41 pm (UTC)
I must confess I find Mary Sue to be one of the most useless terms when used in critique settings (and, really, that's the only place it gets used). It's shorthand without depth.

And I've really never understood the workshop-based hatred of wish-fulfillment. The overwhelming majority of popular characters are popular precisely because they possess wish-fulfillment elements!
green_knight
Nov. 30th, 2014 11:58 am (UTC)
I see a slightly different pattern in publishing.

The ridiculous advances go hand in hand with ridiculously low advances for everyone else, including midlisters who are getting paid fewer real dollars today than they did in the 1990s. It smacks of desperation, of 'publish only the bestsellers' - you pour all your money and hope into a very few and completely ignore the rest.
(Reminds me of racehorses where a similar pattern can be observed: it's all about the hope, the maybe-next-big-thing instead of proven performers.)

Publishers, for the past decade or so, have been recruiting new talent from among those who could afford to learn to write publishable books on their own, who wrote four or five or six novels in private, polished them, got feedback, and eventually came up with one that was good enough to be picked up. When you had a chance at a career and a $20k/year income, it was worth doing that. Now that the average writer can expect a $3K advance and to be dropped after the second book, there's not much incentive to keep pouring all that effort into it, so people self-publish or don't do it at all.
blairmacg
Nov. 30th, 2014 01:50 pm (UTC)
It smacks of desperation, of 'publish only the bestsellers'

Yep. The Hollywood studio format. Hence the rise of independent filmmaking. :)

Now that the average writer can expect a $3K advance and to be dropped after the second book, there's not much incentive to keep pouring all that effort into it, so people self-publish or don't do it at all.

Exactly so. Many, many writers coming in new to the game are performing their due diligence of research regarding the business, and side-stepping trade publishing options altogether, or placing those options on the back burner. Learning the technical skills of self-publishing, seeking support professionals, and figuring out discoverability is little more difficult than researching and implementing all the trade publishing aspects required for success.

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