Posts Tagged publishing
Starring Colin Firth, Jude Law, and Nicole Kidman
Director Michael Grandage
Writer(s) John Logan (screenplay) and A. Scott Berg (book ‘Max Perkins: Editor of Genius’)
Genre Biography | Drama
Release Date June 10, 2016
Filming Location Paramount Studios, Hollywood, California, USA
Parental Guidance PG-13 for thematic elements and suggestive content
IMDB Rating 6.5
Synopsis: When yet-to-be-published author Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law) decides to keep his appointment with Scribner’s editor Max Perkins (Colin Firth), he assumes he is walking in for yet another rejection. Little does he know of Perkins’s penchant for discovering new writers, many of whom he has already raised from obscurity to award-winning success. Perkins informs Wolfe that his novel, which is eventually titled “Look Homeward, Angel”, has been selected for publication but under one condition – that the manuscript is trimmed down from its staggering 1,100 pages to something cost-effective and purchasable. Although initially reluctant to see the red-inked knife be taken to his poetic prose, Wolfe agrees to the bargain and Perkins, as per his MO, actively mentors Wolfe towards editing the story into its final form. Wolfe’s reward is a true friend in Perkins and critical acclaim for his debut novel. However, even as the bond between editor and author continues to grow stronger, one where it advances into the home of each, it does not traverse without contention, as Perkins continues to challenge Wolfe to forgo his grandiose and write with greater economy. Moreover, Perkins is warned time and again by his wife Louise (Laura Linney), other literary charges such as F. Scott Fitzgerald (Guy Pearce) and Earnest Hemmingway (Dominic West), and even chief nemesis Wolfe’s mistress Aline Bernstein (Nicole Kidman) about Wolfe’s proclivity to use and dispose of those who help advance his career. Perkins, though, dismisses the assertions as an inability to endure Wolfe’s artistic temperament – until Wolfe himself begins to prove the assessment correct when the belligerent author starts resenting Perkins for his level contribution to his success.
Experience: It goes without saying that I was drawn to this movie due to Colin Firth’s presence. When I learned that it was a biographical drama on the editor who introduced authors such as Fitzgerald and Hemmingway to their readers, I was further intrigued. To date, I don’t know of any other movie that focuses on the life of a book editor and, as a writer, I felt I owed it to myself to watch it. Like some extra credit homework one does as a precaution for any potential failed test.
I didn’t even know about Max Perkins until this movie. Why would I? If a book does well, authors get all the glory, even though, once upon a time, any form of literature would not see the light of day without some editor signing its ticket. An editor doesn’t even get their contributions acknowledged in print unless the author does the honorable. On the copyright page, it’s the author’s name and publishing house that receives the billing. After all, the manuscript hits the desk of so many different editors for copy checks, proofreading, developmental upgrades, etc. on its way to the press that it would be an odd listing to feature everyone on that little space. But what about the person who discovers a particular work and backs it up against all arguments? Meet Max Perkins. [I’m not sure how faithful an account it is of the original man – though most history buffs claim the movie is principally the real deal – the Max Perkins on screen actually claimed it’s ideal for the editor to go unacknowledged; his words were to the effect that the reader should get an impression that they are reading the book in its original form.]
I’m not naïve enough to believe that all editors are the self-sacrificial heart-and-soul-gamblers that Perkins was. He had insight and was willing to wager his professional reputation for the unknown young writers he believed in and it obviously paid off in these amazing books – though, from the movie, we can see the time and psychological effort it cost him was exceptional. Yet, he seemed to revel in the demands of his undertakings in these temperamental wrecks of egos that he counseled into writing best-sellers. And I loved how Firth brought that out with the quiet grace and effusive sincerity of his acting. [BTW, I discovered he has the most elegant wrist through this movie. Me, bona fide bad-boy chaser go gaga every time over his understated charm and courtesy. And now the wrist?]
Back to his harnessed talent, as always, Firth managed to make the role he plays feel multidimensional, radiating off the screen with his subtle expressions and dialogue delivery. Despite spending most of the movie in quiet reflection, it is a pleasure just to watch the wheels churning behind those lambent eyes or the fleeting smirk that plays hide-and-seek on his firm mouth from self-deprecation or as a result of some study he is yet unwilling to make public. He makes Max Perkins’s skin his own, becoming a man who does not aim to impress but to simply do right by the talented writers he is responsible for.
Playing opposite him, Jude Law does a bang-on job of portraying a self-serving romantic engrossed in astounding everyone he comes into direct or indirect contact with simply because he is determined to rise above the meager upbringing he was afforded. [Disclaimer: I generally don’t like Law] Wolfe was notorious for writing gargantuan tomes that Perkins had to help chisel away to a fraction of their original size because Wolfe believed his writing was beyond criticism and undeserving of revisions. Thanks to Law, Wolfe once again crackles and pops in every breakthrough of his life, trying to overpower Perkins’s more diminutive disposition but finding a formidable challenger nevertheless. Together, they faithfully portray the almost resolute -father-prodigal-son combination that the original partnership was noted for. It’s not easy bringing movies on writing come to life like so many other art forms are accessible through visual representation but, by golly, Firth and Law made it.
Which bring me to the women in the mix. I really enjoyed watching the juxtaposition between the two couples, Max-Louise and Tom-Aline. On the one side, you have a married couple with a gaggle of daughters that have fostered a kind of understanding that allows each member of the pack to flourish in their own way, like the many limbs of a well-rooted tree that is sure of individual and collective fruition. They are ready to welcome other people into their fold just as a tree would provide shelter to strangers just because it can. On the other side, you have a live-in couple mired in an extra-marital affair who, at one point, forsook all family and friends to be with one another and, now, do not appreciate distractions in their personal agendas. If one strays far from the other, the other claws and cankers until he/she returns. Louise’s personality perfectly harmonizes that of Max’s as Aline’s personality pairs Tom’s. It’s selfless devotion vs. selfish passion. And so the Perkins’s generosity is reflected in how Max works with his authors and the Aline-Tom egocentricity spills onto how Tom greets Max’s ministrations. The conflict within the subplot effectively bolsters that of the main plot, and the following dialogue from Max Perkins perfectly encompasses the artistic partnership between the editor and author that was the heart of this biopic:
Maxwell Evarts Perkins: God help anyone who loves you, Tom. Because for all your talk and all your millions of beautiful words, you haven’t the slightest idea of what it means to be alive. To look into another person’s eyes and ache for him. I hope someday you will. And then maybe all your words will be worth five of Scott’s.
Recommendation: I wouldn’t say it is the best movie Colin Firth has acted in but his acting is as immaculate as ever, with great contribution from the rest of the cast. And knowing that the character sketches and plot respectfully tries to remain true to the original people and events, this is a good biopic to watch for all editors and authors. And quite enjoyable too.
Via: Daily Prompt – Compromise
I first attempted to write a full-fledged novel when I had just completed my ‘O’ levels. While waiting for the results to see which junior colleges I qualified for, I drafted half a novel with the vigor of a hummingbird. Then I spent six years editing the chapters I had written, eventually suspending the project indeterminately with the hope that distance would help me solve how to fill the gaping plot hole that stared back at me every time I pulled up the file. But plot holes isn’t the topic of the day; it’s titles – something that I struggled with for eighteen years before learning to lock in place.
For the longest time, this file was saved as ‘Book’ on my hard drive. After hitting the roadblock in my story, I decided it was finally time to give it a title – you know, for a little variety in occupation. Upon reflecting a great deal about my protagonist, I decided her prickly personality was key and came up with a name that makes me want to molt all the quills in my cap. I changed the file name to ‘Cactus’. No, it wasn’t a book on gardening; yes, it was indeed a romance novel. If ever there was a woodpecker trying to drill a hole in an iron skillet, it was I.
Avian metaphors aside, the title is one of the most versatile marketing tools for a book. Regardless of how brilliant a story is, with a generic title, it may be hard-pressed to attract readers. The title can raise curiosity about the content or suggest a solution to the type of materials a reader is already in search of. It may follow a textual motif that links to a series fiction or become a brand symbol for a product expansion.
Even more important than the cover illustration, it not only compels the reader to select a particular book from a pile, ut also becomes a point of reference and recommendation at a later time. The tweet on the right that recently blew up the Internet proves this point well. I think we have all been in the shoes of the reader who requested the red-jacket book. I still haven’t been able to track down this 90’s YA romance novel about makeover and student election and environmental politics that featured a boy, a girl, and a full-length mirror on the cover. I had bought the book through the old Scholastic Book Club order flyers but someone pilfered it from my shelves some twenty years ago. [Note my not-so-subtle cry for help, in case anyone is able to shed light on the title/author]
This is what happens when the title lacks one or more of the following CHARACTERISTICS:
Conspicuous – Before anyone gets around to reading a book, it must first pique reader’s interest enough to grab the book. Yes, an eye-catching cover may do the trick but think about it, the book cover may not be present during a discussion between readers when one person is recommending it to the other(s). Be it racy, divisive, over-the-top, or poignant, it must excite curiosity for the content. Meaning, it’s okay to get gimmicky here.
Memorable – Speaking of recommendations, name one item that is more dependent on end-user reviews than books. Word-of-mouth can move mountains [of books] for an author. However, for it to be effective, the book title must be easy to comprehend, quick to recall, and ready to roll off the recommender’s tongue, right? Similarly, the recipient of the recommendation will be more likely to give up the search for a book they can’t remember the title of because, after all, there is no dearth of reading materials out there.
Explanatory – The title should give the reader an idea of what the book is about. That is not to say it becomes a five-word summary of the story; rather the title should imply the genre, tone, and thematic subject of the book. Informative titles also make it stand out for relevant readers, i.e. readers who are specifically looking for literature that a book offers. Look at it this way, the only thing better than a #tag is the title!
Verbally Fluid – This links back to being memorable but it’s more than that. As already mentioned, the business of books is dependent on recommendations. Pack the title with words that have complex pronunciations or phrasing that plays tongue twister and the reader will be less inclined to passing on the good word to fellow book lovers.
Appealing – A provocative title may attract a lot of readers; even debatable titles gets a pass by inducing reader to engage and discover the other side of an argument. However, regardless of the stunt pulled to make the book title stand out, it must remain palatable. Maya Angelou’s insight “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” aptly applies to book titles. A title that makes a reader feel embarrassed or otherwise uncomfortable, whether due to difficulty in pronunciation or by presenting a socially unacceptable viewpoint, will probably not be brought up in public. It’s also how books get burned.
No short order but these attributes may pave the road to success. Yet, authors often give the title less thought than due. Honestly, having come up with and written down a story to completion provides me with such a sense of accomplishment, I often feel as though my job is done. However, some of my transgressions have been more reckless. I’m not alien to feeling impatient towards the end of a writing project, especially one that has consumed more time than originally expected. And since I almost always wait until the end of the composition to title my stories… Well, you see where I’m going with this.
If only there was a STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO CRAFTING A BOOK TITLE. Hold on a second, could this be it?
Step 1: Finish writing the story first. Despite what I mentioned about my impetuous nature, I still recommend waiting until the completion of your story before sitting down to crack that title. The reason is, regardless of how well you have planned and plotted your story when starting the project, there is always a chance that by the time you reach the end, you may gain new perspective towards your work. Writing is a time-consuming task that gives you ample opportunity to grow as a person as well as an author – make the most of that growth when devising the title.
Step 2: Decide the main purpose of your book. Once the book is written, the central message of the story should become much clearer. A good way to sift through the salient points in the story is to discuss them with friends, critique partners, editors, etc. Now is the time to talk about your thoughts and feelings regarding the story you have written. The aspects of your story that the sample audience is most responsive to is probably a good indicator of what will work with a wider pool of readers and provide great angles for stimulating titles.
Step 3: Brainstorm. Step 2 is really there to take inventory of all that the story has to offer. Keeping in mind the relevance of the book for the target audience as distinguished while deciding its purpose, brainstorming is when you finally let loose your creativity to come up with a title that meets all the desired attributes mentioned above. But first, a few suggestions for the brainstorming session:
Keep a title jar. While ideally brainstorming for titles should be kept aside till you finish writing your story, you may very well notice a phrase befitting your book or be struck by inspiration amidst your project. Write it down and put it in a jar to come back to later.
Be mindful of the narrative voice and POV. The tone the narrator assumes and the POV through which the whole or majority of the story is related should be reflected in the title, as it plays an important role in informing the reader what to expect.
Keep it relevant. For that matter, the title should match both the story told and the audience targeted. Whether you’re banking on the central theme, protagonist’s identity, contextual symbolism, or a famous quote, the title must provide meaning to the story. At the same time, it helps to share similarities with successful titles in the genre of the book.
Don’t give away the ending. While the title should pique the reader’s curiosity and provide an insight into the theme, don’t undermine the plot by revealing too much even before the book is read. Allow the title to raise questions but make sure to withhold the answers.
Add hidden layers. Titles with double meanings, i.e. which touch upon evident motifs in the story as well as underlying themes and morals, are great for wowing the reader. While this ploy may not contribute to the reader picking up the book initially, it can provide an overall satisfaction in the reading experience, which the reader may retain and refer to others.
Don’t limit your options. During the brainstorming session, fill your title jar with as many possibilities as you can think of. Feel free to use both short and long phrases and explore the various sources (more on that below) from which you can lift ideas for the title.
Step 4: Narrow down to your favorites and run a self-test. Sound out the words to your shortlisted titles. Could any title benefit from alliteration? Does it provide the prospect for coining a phrase or new word? Is it clumsy or pleasant? These are just some of the details to keep your ears out for. Some titles may profit from a little rephrasing to make them less awkward; some of the longer ones may need shortening. They say the ideal fiction titles are limited to five words. I’m not sure how true that is but I have come to realize that action words create more impact and that using precise nouns and active verbs give reader the sense of delving into the story from the get-go.
Step 5: Make sure the title hasn’t been run ragged. Check Amazon, Goodreads, Wikipedia. Google it and see what comes up. Try to remain in the fold of your genre but do not blend in like sheep.
Step 6: Recruit title reviewers. Take your list of favorite title options and ask people what they think. Ideally, these people should have read your manuscript first so they are aware of the pertinent points of the story. Listen to their feedback carefully but with a grain of salt, then reevaluate your options.
Step 7: Make your final selection. Revisit Step 2 and see if the final title you have chosen fits the goal of your book.
Sounds like a lot of work, huh? So is true about most things that reap great benefits. The good news is that most of these steps can be performed by rote. In fact, the true challenge is convincing yourself that your book is worth your reader’s time because it is only when you have found your book’s purpose that you will be motivated to go through all the nitty-gritty of discovering the perfect title. So…
WHERE DO YOU LOOK FOR BOOK TITLES?
Trending titles in the genre – Different genres take to different types of titles. Complex names often lend the right amount of gravitas to literary fictions but then may also require subtitles to provide context; historical romance novels tend to focus on the identity of the protagonist(s). Obviously, these titles are working with the targeted audiences in their respective genres. What’s not broke &c.
Thematic titles – In character-driven stories, thematic titles are used to present an idea of the protagonist’s journey. The focus is frequently on the conflict that adds to the MC’s struggles and injects mystery to the title by using metaphors or symbols associated with the said themes.
The MacGuffin – The MacGuffin, which represents the plot device or a desired objective for the protagonist, may also be a part of the title, as it also reflects upon the potential course of the story.
Protagonist’s name, role or traits – This is perhaps the more deliberate route taken to naming a character-driven story. Though simplistic and direct, the protagonist’s implied limitations can act as a strong stimulus for readers to identify with through the title and, thus, induce them to read the book to learn the protagonist’s fate.
A focus on fellowship – Some plot-driven stories revolve around the actions of a group of people that add to or reverse the course of the central conflict. In such cases, the contribution of no singular character is enough and, therefore, the title may feature a group of characters instead.
Unusual Setting – Where the major conflict or goal for the protagonist is presented in the form a place in the story, the title may assume the name of such a place.
Event – A significant event that starts or turns the course of a story is an excellent source for a title.
Famous words – Whether lifted from a song, a poem, or a quote, popular phrases seem to have a pleasant effect on titles, touching upon what the reader is already familiar with, and, hence, make such trendy titles.
From the manuscript – For that matter, why not list all your favorite lines in the book? Keywords or inspired phrases in the book that rightly express the essence of the story may just deserve their place in the spotlight.
A compelling story deserves a compelling title. It would be a sad state if after putting in all that work in writing a best-seller, the success is marred by a lackluster title. What do they say, in for a penny in for a pound? Well, having the perseverance to work on that title is well worth it.
So, how do you come up with your titles?
Finally, a word on the Author Toolbox Blog Hop:
#AuthorToolboxBlogHop is a monthly event, hosted by the gracious Raimey Gallant, featuring various resources and learnings for authors written by authors. It is open to writers at all stages of their careers and the rules of sign-up are available in the overhead link. Also, if you are just interested in connecting with actual authors and see what they have got to say, the sign-up page has a list of participants to direct you to their pages. Happy reading and writing, fellow authors!
author advice, Author Toolbox, AuthorToolboxBlogHop, book marketing, book titles, Creative Writing, daily post, Daily Prompt, publishing, storytelling, word of mouth, Writing, writing fiction, writing tips
When writing fiction with the intention of reaping glory or sale, it is very important not to become overly simplistic about one’s passion for the act of writing. So you have a great story to tell, so it’s all you can think about, so the high will not be tamped until you have flushed the words onto some surface for later reading. But if you want others to feel even nearly as passionately about your work as you do, it is important to keep your eye on some of these following rules:
- Write a story that your audience wants to read not just the one you want to tell. A little compromise can take you a long way. You have built up your writing voice by reading up on a particular genre and know what you enjoy. Well, since the books you are reading sell, there are others with similar needs as yours. Invest in a little research to see what this audience is actually looking for when they pick up the same books as you do instead of relying on guesswork, imagining that your customers are just more of you. Hard data is a trouble worth the results they will get you.
- Be honest about what you are writing. I know, it seems to contradict the previous rule, because if you are writing to market to an audience, then how are you also writing the truth? Simple, if you don’t believe in it, don’t dish it. Writing exists on a truth-enhancement continuum. Find your place on this spectrum and go with it. One way to do this is by drafting your ideas, outlines, cluster passages/chapters before going into the research part. You have gotten the passionate bits recorded so now you may calm down and employ some cool calculation. Remember, if fiction writing was not a professional career, it wouldn’t have a whole gamut of systematic rules to getting published.
- Hit the nail with a strong opening. When readers are shopping for new books, whether at a brick-and-mortar or at a dot-com, a lot of them will flip the first few pages to see if they can connect with the content. This means they will go through the first chapter, poem, or what have you. Most online book retails also provide a “Look Inside” or similar preview tools to entice shoppers. Your opening scene can be a powerful marketing tool and you should make the most of it. I posted a blog on creating great First Impressions previously that you may wish to check out 🙂
- Add viable conflict. Interestingly, this is a point that requires mentioning because a lot of novel (as in, new) writers forget while in the throes of writing that even though the conflict must tempt the readers to turn pages, it must also match your character and plot personality. It’s all good when James Bond is flying through Bangkok in an airborne tuk-tuk but will this the way the good reverend would travel to deliver his Sunday sermons?
- Length does matter so it’s best not to prolong the conflict unnecessarily. Despite the fact that I hate when a good book comes to an end, I can appreciate that all good things must be enjoyed in moderation. Adding conflict after conflict, dishy scenes after dishy scenes might be enjoyable to you but will probably diminish the value of your book. When outlining your story, make sure you always keep the scenes and chapters you add remain true to why you are telling that particular story. Nip anything irrelevant when you edit. This is especially true with today’s readers who have endless TBRs to get to.
- Don’t info dump on your readers. Again, just because you put in all that effort into your research, doesn’t mean you keep looking for ways to pass on all that you learned while writing. The entire chronicles of Queen Mary’s rivalry with Queen Elizabeth I is probably irrelevant in a historical romance novel about a lowly girl marrying a duke just because the setting is 16th century England.
- Finally, write a good blurb. No one knows the story better than you – yet, most authors have a difficult time arranging a summary that emotively allures readers to their novels while not giving away the end. Authors, by nature, tend to bounce back and forth between a state of self-importance and diffidence. Even before reading the first chapter, your audience will judge you by the synopsis on the back of your book jacket. It doesn’t matter how epic your story is, before the word-of-mouth goes viral, you will have to rely on those first few readers. And unless you are able to convince them with a blaring announcement selling them why your story is worth spending a day of their life on, your book will probably languish on their shelves for eternity. When writing the blurb, put yourself in a book reviewer’s shoes and make sure you remember to add that very valuable conflict that makes the story important. It took me only about a hundred try to get my blurb for Bad Daughter to satisfy me, and let me tell you, it looks a lot different from the original blurb I had posted on Amazon. It currently reads like this:
What would you do if you were taught that the price of safety is silence?
At the age of six years, Obaira Osman was sexually abused by her uncle, the memory of which she manages to keep buried for a decade. At sixteen, she is a dedicated daughter, loving sister, and an ideal student. When she wins a national essay writing competition and finds herself wooed by the most handsome and intelligent boy in school, life seems like it couldn’t get any better – even if cultural constraints demand she keeps her love affair a secret. However, after a planned rendezvous, which should have been a simple rite of passage, goes awry, Obaira’s memory of a terrifying past comes crashing around her and she realizes she has been far from being the perfect daughter. Her response is to shackle herself to the rules and regulations of her home environment in order to reclaim the safety she once knew to be true.
What if you one day realized that the cost of silence is freedom?
Over the next two decades, she finds herself atoning for the burden of shame that is her legacy. She attempts to earn back her parents’ faith even while trying to find peace by lending a voice to women who have been crushed by similar forms of abuse – much to her conservative parents’ chagrin. But she is kinder to the women she helps than to herself, as she remains unwilling to accept a second chance when fate takes her across the world to the doorstep of the man who just may be the one to emancipate her tortured soul.
I’m sure there are about a thousand other rules to keep on the lookout when writing fictions to sell, but these seem to be some common mistakes authors make. I know, I am guilty of at least half of them 😐
You must be wondering why I’m posting my Wednesday Reflection on a Thursday night-Friday morning. Yes, that is indeed how long I reflected on this issue. And I have decided that this week, instead of reviewing works of others, I shall engage in shameless self-promotion and request review for my own work. After all, it’s been a whole week since Bad Daughter was published via Kindle Select and all the factors – starting from being an unrecognized self-published author to trying to advertise online using the rigidly controlled monetary outflow imposed by Bangladesh Bank to having my book initially under lockdown to appear only on Amazon UK – have cast my book into the pit of obscurity in the reader’s market. Tinkering all day on Facebook Ad Manager to only receive continuous “your ad has not been approved” e-mails (tell me, what is wrong with the above creative?) has not been a ball of laughs either. So I return to my one outpost of comfort, WordPress. A girl has to survive somehow…
I’m sorry to be in such a choleric mood tonight but choleric I am. I went to the bank twice this week in order to get my dollars endorsed so I can run some campaigns on Facebook and Twitter. When I finally returned home successful, I was primed to conquer the world of social media engagement, believing my years of honed marketing communications skills would, at last, come into use for my own product. I had spent all of 2015 and most of 2016 running pre-opening launch campaigns and post-opening promotions for a global chain hotel online so I though this should be as easy as 1-2-3. Not so. My ad, as mentioned above, has been rejected by FB numerous times and all the feedback I receive is a vague “does not meet the Ad Policy Guidelines”. No direction as to which policy it violates. I have tried changing everything from the creative to the target audience to the objectives… it just does not stick. And always the same vague feedback, even upon appeal. With Twitter, I can’t even seem to upload all the information properly before the page routes to error. All this has made me wonder if I am a total web illiterate. In which case, how the hell did I manage a quarter of a million dollars in PR earnings and Social Media engagements for our hotel’s grand launch campaign in 2015?
Which brings me to the reason why I was trying to run ad campaigns on Facebook and Twitter. I realize it’s a bit like putting the cart before the horse but I finally have planned out a marketing schedule to campaign my book. My first objective is to simply get people to read and review it. So I have set up a Free eBook Download promotion for this Saturday and Sunday (to run according to Pacific Standard Time) on Amazon. The links to my book (by market) are provided at the bottom of this post and all a reader needs to do is download the eBook and read it via Kindle App, which is available for free on iOS, Android, PC, and Mac. The image to the right says “Buy My Book…” but, this Saturday, purchase is not even necessary. All I’m requesting people at this point is download it for free, read it at your leisure, and if you think it’s worth a review, please return to Amazon and leave a couple of words. Do I sound desperate? Well, it’s because I’m feeling pretty desperate. You might be thinking I’m losing it too soon but my frustration reaps from the deluge of technical difficulties I’m facing. Because, you know, even if I don’t get stellar reviews, it would still mean people read it.
The good news is, at least the Free eBook Download is scheduled for the weekend. Nothing can go wrong there anymore, right? Knock on wood.
Links to download Bad Daughter by Region:
I’m still waiting for the book to become purchasable in the USA, even though I re-selected the country as the primary market.
Update: It’s finally on Amazon US, yay!
So Friday I finally submitted my story for the Amazon UK Kindle Storytelling contest, as I had mentioned in last month’s blog. My planned 20K-word novelette turned into a 34,480-word project. You must be thinking, ooh… an editing crisis, right? Not so much, I hope. I kept everything that was relevant to get the story to the finish. I stuck to the plot outline, scripted only the scenes necessary to develop my characters, and did not embellish on the descriptive narratives. I stayed 100% flourish-free. At least, I tried.
This is how I can break down my work on this submission: Read the rest of this entry »
Last week, in the 17th installation of my Writing Chronicles, I discussed the various ways to “Punish Your Protagonist“. I thought this week, I would make up for it by talking about how to Save the First Chapter.
Wherever you look, literary agents and editors impart a few golden rules: research the agent/editor before you submit your query, provide an economic-yet-comprehensive synopsis of your story in the cover letter, and make sure your manuscript is ready when you send in those first three chapters. In other words, try not to waste this rare opportunity to be read by a professional. Your book’s opening will decide if your story gets picked or tossed.
Getting the first chapter wrong is a piece of cake. We’re writers – an absentminded-yet-observant breed riddled with insecurities throughout our creative process and beyond. Even when we get the story right, we know it could have been better. It can always be better. But with a few simple precautions, that first chapter can be GOOD. What is better than good?
Here’s my two-cents’ worth to a workable first chapter: Read the rest of this entry »
When getting into the process of writing a book, I think all of us worry at some point what if we are throwing pebbles into a bottomless abyss. This is not taking into account that about 80% of the people in our lives thinks we are crazy to pursue such an endeavor. What matters is that we are brave enough to chase after our dreams. We believe in our potentials as writers and therefore guard the manuscripts stingily. Not allowing anyone to read them even for the purpose of receiving feedback until “they are ready”. Only showing the finished works to a handful of very trusted friends, hopefully, true enough not to evade giving their honest opinions but kind enough to word their criticisms constructively.
But if we really wish to be published, at some point, we must send out copies of our manuscripts to strangers. These maybe professional beta readers, an agent to gain representation or even directly the publishers themselves. They’re now out there, available for abuse, ridicule and rejection. But we take the bold steps because we loved working on them, and which parent has not wanted to show off their baby’s accomplishments at some point? We hope that someone will see the value of our effort, believe that we are the next best thing to happen to the publishing industry. A publisher will kiss their lucky star that they got a hold of our manuscripts before someone else picked them up. We are prepared to weather what J.K. Rowling went through – even if our work does not become a billion dollar global franchise.
But what if our work is the next best-seller and someone wants to pilfer it? No, we are not so naïve that we did not ever consider the possibility. Yet, we take a chance on fate because with fear, we can never get ahead. Our work deserves to be read and therefore we test our luck. However, sometimes luck does not favor us. I was reminded of this when I read a post by a fellow blogger earlier this weekend. Jarring, the experience was – to be shown again that integrity is one of the rarest commodities in any industry.
For those of you who have been following my blog already know that after years of dabbling I only recently took up writing full-time. While preoccupation with my career was the primary reason, another reason was wondering if I would manage to get my manuscript ever picked up. I am sitting in Bangladesh writing fiction based on American characters for primarily a Western audience – what are the possibilities of finding representation and a publisher willing to take the hassle of working with me, right? And I harbor all of those hang-ups on how easy it would be for someone to steal my work once I send out my manuscripts overseas or for people to swindle me out of a worthy contract since it would be so challenging for me to take it to court. This aside from the apparent 30% withdrawal income tax I would have to pay the US government for being a foreign payee! But I somehow managed to convince myself that no, God willing, I will only find decent people down the road and I will get published and people will love my romance novels…
Then I read this blog and all those fears just came back. Because I know what it feels like to have my work stolen, to see someone else’s name on the cover of my writing. Soon after I finished my Bachelor’s, I was invited by the Head of Economics Department at my university to discuss the possibility of working on a research article for a global forum. I was one of the top students of my cohort, a Summa Cum Laude in fact, and all of my professors at one point or another had approached me to consider joining the faculty once my MBA was also completed, and if I do become a faculty member, to join their respective department. I imagined the meeting with my Economics professor would be of similar nature.
When I got to his office, however, he had a more concrete proposal. He asked if I wanted to collaborate on a research paper with one of his university alumni, a prominent businessman, who will be visiting Switzerland to share a paper at an international development conference. My professor told me, whether I wish to pursue collegiate teaching or receive a good scholarship for further studies, having research articles published in international journals would add unparalleled value to my resume. I jumped at the opportunity. For months I read up literature, hit public records on trade and commerce in Bangladesh, looked up potential industries that may become the next frontier for foreign direct investments in our labor intensive country, wrote and polished the paper. I e-mailed the draft to my professor and he was effusive with his praise for my effort, forwarding the work to his friend for review while keeping me in CC. I didn’t hear anything for over a month and asked my professor if his friend did not like it. My professor apologized for his lack of attention to the matter and then reached out to his friend. Only to find out the paper had already been delivered and the friend had not had enough time to give a feedback before he traveled to Switzerland and back.
My professor then broke me the news that his friend had also delivered the paper under his sole authorship and it was on its way to being published by the forum as such. As I sat there in his office, my professor could not meet my gaze while he apologized, telling me he had never expected his friend would stoop to such poaching. All I could ask was if his friend made changes to the paper, adding his own materials. No, he had not. So it was not a collaboration because I worked on the paper all on my own; he just corresponded its content to the audience? My professor was in an awkward position and reluctantly informed me his rich powerful businessman friend wished to compensate me for “a job well done”, as though I was working on hire. My professor advised me to take the compensation since contesting it in court in Bangladesh against the director of a chamber of commerce no less would be futile.
Naïve as I was, I wanted to contest it still. My professor gave me the address to reach him and offered to go with me but I could tell his heart wasn’t in it so I released him from the obligation. I did take a friend with me though when I went to visit Big Businessman. My friend was already working as a researcher with the local branch of an internationally renowned development agency and maybe I had hoped his presence would shame the Big Businessman into ensuring my name gets on the paper before it is actually in print. But thieves are without shame, aren’t they? I was given an envelope full of cash and that too without apology. He completely avoided acknowledging what he had done, his smile jaunty throughout the time we stayed in his office. Everyone loved my paper at the conference. Isn’t it great that I could put together such a contribution to our nation’s economics in such a short time?
I was so young and it took every cell in my body to hold back the tears as I came to the realization that I can never win against such a callous individual. Beside me, my friend’s head hung low instead of the Big Businessman seating across the giant executive desk that had done its job in making me feel dwarfed. My friend felt more shame at the actions of his fellow mankind than the perpetrator. We had been served tea and biscuits but I don’t remember taking anything. Eventually, I said a polite goodbye and the man showed us out very cordially all the way to the gate of the building. Maybe he was afraid we would create a scene once outside his office. My friend hailed a cab, we got in, and only then did I cry. It was such a violation. I remember blabbering that no one else should ever have to suffer it. A bit dramatic it seems now but I think that was one of the few times in my life I cried in front of anyone outside my immediate family.
We went back to my home, where my friend gave me the envelope. He had picked it up for me, figuring I should get something out of the ordeal. It was such a vile sight, I told him to give it away to charity. Then I showed him the e-mail containing the attachment of the article, as though I still needed to validate that it was my work. It was only then that I realized that the draft I sent was without any citations of the facts and figures I incorporated, and everyone knows a research paper without source information is worth zilch. Does it make the last laugh mine? No. It doesn’t matter that the article was published without the bibliography section. I will never be able to publically claim the paper as mine. Months later, when the paper was published online, I downloaded it with his name as a reminder to never be that naïve again. I have actually gone online almost every year since to see if the article is still up there, as though Big Businessman would miraculously grow a conscience and have it removed. I went back today, in fact, as I typed this post, wondering if I should just hyperlink it here and reveal that person as the farce he is. It makes me mad but I curb it.
But the fact of the matter is that we are still putty to fate. At least, so it appears according to the blog I just read. When I write now, I am subconsciously aware and fearful that the past might repeat itself. Still, I write, whether I make a cent or not, with the possibility of having my work stolen again, only with the vague hope that I will work with people of integrity. Though I would not know how I would handle having another one of my works stolen and published under some other person’s name. I guess we can only cross that bridge if and when we get to it. God forbid.
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