Sometimes a disaster turns into a great adventure. (Of course that’s because I’m not the one, in this case, who will have to pay for the damage.)
Last month, Mary Ann Aug, a fellow sister in Sisters in Crime, responded when I asked if anyone going to Sleuthfest would be willing to share a the ride across Alligator Alley to Deerfield Beach. I arrived at her house at 1 pm Thursday and switched my luggage into her elegant (and very clean) Lexus. We were on the road within 15 minutes and nearing mile marker 93 when we heard a bang, then the sound of something being dragged. Mary Ann pulled to the side and we both got out of the car. The bumper was half off and her tire was going flat.
Two hours later, after waiting for a tow truck and then having an enjoyable (and yes, I mean it. The driver and his helper were great.) ride to a body shop in Naples, Mary Ann’s husband met us with my car. (Thank goodness they’d suggested I leave my car key with her husband.) With the spare tire on the Lexus and Duct tape holding the fender in place (The Lexus now looked like cars I’ve driven in the past.) he headed back to his house.
Mary Ann now had to ride in my not-so-clean car, but we made it to the conference hotel by 6:30 pm, and Mary Ann even bought my dinner and a couple drinks. (In truth, I think I owed her, but when it comes to food and alcohol, I’m not one to argue.)
And that was my start to Sleuthfest 2016, which once again was a wonderful conference to attend. C.J. Box, Victoria Plame, and P.J. Parrish (two sisters writing as one) were the guest speakers. I’ll write more about them in another blog.
I always like to attend and listen to editors talk about what they’re looking for. This “Editors’ Roundtable” included Chris Knopf (Permanent Press), Erin George (Henery Press), Anne Speyer (Ballantine Books), and Neil Nyren (G.P. Putnam & Sons).
They all agreed that the following problems acted as turn offs when reviewing a manuscript.
1. Too many exclamation points
2. Too many semicolons
3. Too much backstory.
4. Not starting book soon enough.
- Good writing
- A good plot
- Good characters
Suggestions the editors made.
- Read dialogue aloud. If it doesn’t sound like what you hear, change it.
- SHOW don’t TELL.
- Interesting characters.
It can be the same plot you’ve seen before if the characters are interesting. Character drives the book.
Which is one of those illusive things where you know it if it’s there.
Someone in the audience asked how many queries/proposals/manuscripts they read in a year and how many they purchased. The editors could only guess what the total number of new material might be, but most mentioned around a thousand a year…and most said they only went to contract with 4 to 10 new writers a year. Not exactly what a packed room of writers wanted to hear.
Next week I’ll share my notes from two (or maybe three) other sessions I attended.