Please welcome author Rula Sinara as she talks about....
It’s not about being pretty. Yes, you want to follow proper format on a manuscript, but agonizing for hours over how to get 25 lines on your page instead of the 23 that are haunting you at night is a waste of precious time. Having blatant two-inch margins and an entire manuscript in italics is practically an act of defiance (can you tell I have teenagers), given how many clear sources there are on proper formatting. However, editors aren’t window shopping. They’re not going to buy your book because it looked all pretty. They’re going to buy it because of its quality and fit. All that time I spent counting lines and worrying over minutia, I should have spent on conflict.
A Writer’s Hindsight and the Secret that Sold
By Rula Sinara
Although I’m a strong believer in education (bookworm here), I also know without a doubt that experience can trump what’s found on a page. I tell my kids all the time that it doesn’t matter if they read the examples in their math textbook a zillion times. They have to work problems if they’re going to really ‘get it’. I’ve also reminded them that, even though they’re smarter than I was at their age, I will always be ahead of them in experience (I’m sure they love hearing that lol).
As a writer, I love the fact that there will always be wiser, more experienced authors who I can (and have) turned to for advice. I can’t tell you how many writing blogs I’ve turned to for answers. How many craft books I devoured. However, with my first book now on shelves, I’ve been able to look back and clearly see where—despite excellent advice—I wasted time and energy on that road to publication because of misplaced paranoia and perfectionism.
I’m a craft book junkie. I read up on voice, character development, motivation…you name it. It’s all crucial, especially having characters with realistic, organic motivation for their goals. But, in my opinion, all of that links back to a story needing a solid conflict—a situation where the actions a hero or heroine must take to achieve their ultimate goal, will prevent the other from achieving theirs. Rather than turning this into a conflict lesson, I’ll refer you to the man who made it all click for me. Michael Hague. If you ever have the chance to attend one of his ‘Story Mastery’ lectures (I always listen to him at RWA Nationals), do so. You can also check out his website at www.storymastery.com. What I will say here is this…the one thing that kept my earlier manuscripts from selling wasn’t spacing or typos. It was not having the right (or strong enough) conflict. I know this from editor feedback, so I’m passing that tip on to you. No amount of description or voice will sell your story if there is no story. Most of us wish there were more than 24 hours in a day. Prioritize your writing focus as you do other things. Make sure your conflict is strong and compelling. Nail that first…and the rest comes after.Bio:
Rula Sinara lives in Virginia’s countryside with her husband, three boys and crazy but endearing pets. When she's not writing or doing mom stuff, she loves organic gardening, attracting wildlife to her yard (cool bugs included) or watching romantic movies. She also enjoys interviewing fellow authors and is a Special Contributor for USA Today's Happy Ever After blog. Her door is always open at www.rulasinara.com or www.awritersrush.blogspot.com.
Blurb: The Promise of Rain
He wants to take her child out of Africa…
The Busara elephant research and rescue camp on Kenya's Serengeti is Anna Bekker's life's work. And it's the last place she thought she'd run into Dr. Jackson Harper. As soon as he sets eyes on her four-year-old, Pippa, Anna knows he'll never leave…without his daughter.
Furious doesn't begin to describe how Jack feels. How could Anna keep this from him? He has to get his child back to the States. Yet as angry as he is with Anna, they still have a bond. But can it endure, despite the ocean—and the little girl—between them?
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Congrats, Rula! And what fantastic advice! Although proper formatting makes for an easier read, the story is what matters.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Cherie! You're right...I wouldn't advise ignoring formatting, spelling etc...completely. You don't want to lose an editor because the manuscript is too 'messy' to read. But if the story and hook are strong, they're not going to toss it away just because of one missing comma or a margin that's off by 2 mm :). And yes...I think at one point I measured LOL (shakes head at self).Delete
Congrats! Working the problems. Love that analogy.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Donna! If only my kids would listen LOL ;). But honestly, I learn so much from each manuscript I complete.Delete
Excellent advice! Conflict is so important. And congrats on your release!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Meradeth!! :)Delete
It's so nice to learn more about you, Rula. Congratulations on The Promise of Rain! I love the advice you give your children - it's so true.ReplyDelete
Thanks Nas, for hosting today!
Thank you, Karen! Nas is awesome, isn't she?Delete
So true! Conflict is what makes us keep reading.ReplyDelete
Absolutely, Kelly! It makes things interesting for sure :).Delete
Ok, GREAT reminders here. Thank you for refocusing our (my ;) ) anal writer eyes on what really matters. You phrased it really succinctly and well, too, which I appreciate :)ReplyDelete
LOL, Liz :). Glad you liked it! I'm a bit (cough, cough) OCD (cough;) and boy did it slow me down and make me focus on nit picky details. I think it's easier in some ways (for me at least) to focus on tidying things up aesthetically, than to force my brain to figure out/solve the deeper problems in a story. I've learned though.... :)Delete
I love me some conflict. Love this post. Great advice! And congrats Rula!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Leigh!! :)Delete
I love that Rula takes craft books seriously but let go of the formatting obsession. Her book sounds exciting. Wishing much success! :)ReplyDelete
Thanks, Lexa! I do love those craft books :). It's all about taking it in, but then focusing on what needs my attention.Delete
An agent once told me that a book can be summed up with "What does she want and how does she go about getting it?" Maybe that sounds too simple, but it seems to capture motivation, conflict and story -- so essential, as Rula points out!ReplyDelete
Great advice, Helena! And so true. Answering those questions for both the hero and heroine, then making sure that the process of one achieving his/her goal would prevent the other from achieving theirs is the key to nabbing the right conflict between the hero and heroine.:)Delete
I do think people sweat the small stuff too much. The only thing a properly-formatted manuscript does is make a writer look professional, but I wonder if editors/agents even notice how many lines there are per page?ReplyDelete
Exactly, Stephanie. And boy did I sweat LOL. Looking professional is so important, but trust me, editors don't have time to count lines. Now, 10 lines a page might stand out LOL...Delete
Great post Rula and congratulations!ReplyDelete
Good advice! Compelling conflict is the key!ReplyDelete
Absolutely! Thanks, Sherry!Delete
"...there will always be wiser, more experienced authors who I can (and have) turned to for advice." I couldn't agree more. What would we do without one another?ReplyDelete
Crystal, I've found time and again that writers are such an incredibly supportive and welcoming group of people. We're so lucky to be surrounded by such generous hearts and minds! :)Delete
Nas and all the Editors at Work here, I just wanted to say thanks!! It's so wonderful being here today!ReplyDelete
I've gained so much through experience, as well as other people's experiences. And although many books have helped me, other writers, bloggers, conferences, and so much more have helped me even more.
Thanks, Medeia! I agree! There's so much out there to soak up :)Delete
Great advice! I think it is important to look to other writer's for advice. Conferences always leave me with at least one big takeaway that I can use to improve my writing. :)ReplyDelete
Wishing Rula the best of luck!
Thanks, Jess! I agree about conferences too!Delete
Conflict is the key to success -- line-by-line, getting us to turn every page.ReplyDelete
Absolutely, Milo. Thanks for stopping by!Delete