I used to pride myself on being a language nerd, but that changed this week.
First I discovered coordinate adjectives. My understanding had been that separating adjectives with commas was always incorrect. Not so! “Coordinate adjectives,” that is adjectives that modify a noun in the same way, are properly separated by a comma. The easy way to determine this is to ask oneself whether the same adjectives could be joined by the word “and.”
“The old red car” is correct because “old” modifies “red car.” Joining the adjectives with the word “and” produces “the old and red car,” which doesn’t work.
“The tall, strong man” is correct because “tall” and “strong” both modify “man.” “The tall and strong man” works fine, though a comma works better.
Shamed as I was to discover this rule, my week was made worse today when I learned that the internet has apparently assaulted my beloved rules of language. Specifically, the double-space after a period is no more. So sayeth the typists and the graphic designers.
The photo above is the damage to my neighbor’s bedspread after he fell asleep (“passed out” is probably the more accurate term) with a lit cigarette.
I got home from a walk about 11:00 last night to find the entry corridor filled with hazy, foul-smelling smoke. I called my landlord and tried to rouse my downstairs neighbor–besides me he’s the only one who lives in the building–but no amount of banging would bring him to the door. Later I’d learn this was due to the drug-induced stupor.
More great stuff from Eric at Pimp My Novel. Many of us aspiring writers read book after book about the process of getting that first book published, but few of us know anything about the business of selling those books, which is obviously secondary but no less relevant to our interests. For instance:
Returns—Often expressed as a percentage, returns are the books sent back to the publisher by the account(s). The return rate is described by (# of books returned by the account)/(# of books shipped to the account).
Sell-through—Also often expressed as a percentage, sell-through is the number of books sold by an account compared to how many it bought. It is described by (# of books sold by the account)/(# of books shipped to the account).
Lots of people don’t realize it, but writers make their money from publisher sales to book stores, not from book store sales to readers. This sounds great to a lot of us writers, until we see the difference our return and sell-through rates make in getting more books published.
Pimp My Novel is fast becoming one of my favorite blogs. I really recommend you go poke around there.
1. Completion of your novel. Congratulations! You’ve written an entire novel (~60,000 – 100,000 words)! Now go edit it. No, don’t tweet about how awesome your book is (yet). Edit.
2. Six months later… congratulations again! Between your critique group, your trusted first-readers, and your biggest editor/critic (i.e. you, at least at this point), you’ve polished your novel to a high lustre. Such a high lustre, fact, that you’ve begun using British spelling and grammar without even realising it. Ace! (Apparently you are also stuck in the 1980s.)
Have you written a truly smashing query letter yet? You have? Ace again. All mod cons, as they say. (British slang, incidentally, is weird.) Anyway—time to start querying Nathan, Janet, Kristin, Jessica, and all the rest. Cast a wide net, and remember: no exclusives!
3. Three months later… you’re still querying? Of course you are, unless you’re luckier than Malachi Constant. What, did you think this was going to be easy? Keep at it.
4. Three months after that… Hooray! After several form rejections, a few polite refusals on partials, and one or two fulls, you’ve gotten an offer of representation. (To make this as simple a scenario as possible, let’s say this is one of your dream agents and you accept the offer immediately.) Don’t start the party just yet, though. Now you’ve got real work to do.
I finished the first full draft of Volve in about 2001. I have been going back and forth between steps 2 and 3 since then. It’s been through three rewrites and three separate phases of queries. I’ve received three requests for partials and one request for a full, which was then followed by a rejection with a request to revise and resubmit. Unfortunately in the two years it took me to revise the publisher went through a major upheaval and the editor who liked my book left.
I’m still on the path, though. As of now I have a polished query letter and a long-form synopsis, as well as a rewritten manuscript that should be in final, fully-polished form sometime late this month or early next. By then I’ll also have a polished one-page synopsis and we’ll go back to the querying process.
Maybe this time I can proceed on to step four.