Tag Archives: Getting Published

In Mon – Farewell to Words

Well now. When I first got the email with this week’s InMon prompt, I thought I’d be writing a tribute to Steph, who runs it. I also began to consider how I might replace InMon in my blogging schedule. And then I thought about the date. And then I read the post in full. And then I sighed.

So, no tribute to you, Steph. And you almost did yourself out of a participant!

Instead, here’s a story…

A Farewell To Words

“I put them there for a reason,” sighed Joanna, trying to keep the whine out of her voice. “I don’t go in for gratuity, you know I don’t, but sometimes you have to include the character’s language for realism.”

“I know, but the publishers won’t take it.” Ian flicked through the redacted copy in front of him. He could almost hear the author’s brain trying to come up with arguments through the silence on the telephone. “Sometimes you have to sacrifice perfection.”

“For what? Market share? There is no way Bilton would say ‘Shoot’ when he sees those bodies. No way! There’s perfection, Ian, and then there’s…” She stumbled over the words; she wanted to pick up the phone and throw it across the room.

“I know it’s frustrating, Jo, but that’s what they are telling me. They want the novel. They want to give it publicity, a good launch date … hell, they’re even offering you an advance. That’s unheard of for a first novel in this market.”

“Did you say hell?”

Ian took a breath. Now she was mad.

“Did you say HELL, Ian? Not heck? Not gee, or shoot? You said hell, because hell is what came to your lips when you heard I might get some money for seven years of researching and writing. Now imagine you’d just seen a room full of carved up little children. Imagine you had spent chapters and chapters looking for those children, talking to their parents, hoping against hope that they were alive somewhere. Are you imagining it, Ian? Are you imagining you open that door and see the bodies piled up, bits missing, unseeing eyes staring at you … Now, tell me you would say ‘Shoot’.”

“Jo…”

“No, Ian. Go back to them. Tell them the swearing stays. And if they don’t like it, they can go shoot themselves.”

******

A bit of backstory, for those who are interested.

The prompt “Farewell to words” reminded me of the Hemingway title, A Farewell To Arms. One of his most famous and successful novels, this book was originally published censored, with the swear words replaced by dashes. It was America, in the inter-war period, and such language was too much for the publishers and readership. But this is a bleak, tragic novel, set during the First World War. Undoubtedly the real-life soldiers for whom those events were real didn’t hold back their language, but Hemingway was obliged to when he depicted them.

Even now, authors face a conundrum of how and when to use blasphemy, swear words and other controversial language. It’s a difficult balance to strike – between realism and toning it down for the market. Graphic, horrific scenes seem to get a much easier ride, and yet as a reader, I think I struggle much more with some of the images created than the odd F- or S-. I thought that might be an interesting subject for a short, and the story above was born.

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Pitch Perfect

Today my 25 word pitch for “Who is Eric?” appears on Madison Woods’ blog in her weekly event – Would you buy it? – to allow writers to test their pitches on readers and other writers. I’d be super grateful if you could nip over to her blog (http://madisonwoods.wordpress.com/2012/03/29/vote-for-it-would-you-buy-it-5/) and leave your votes and comments on her page, so that I can get the best possible picture of how I’m doing. It’s TOTALLY fine to say you don’t like the pitch, especially if you can give me any ideas on what would make it work better for you.

In the meantime, I thought I’d have a parallel post here about pitches in general. The pitch is used to sell a book to agents, publishers, retailers and even potentially readers. It is linked to, although not necessarily the same as, the blurb on the back of a paperback, which hooks the reader in and gives them both enough information and enough intrigue that they want to read the book.

The 25 word pitch is often called the Elevator Pitch, and that’s a term used in other businesses too. It’s a simple idea – you find yourself in the elevator with the perfect investor / publisher / agent / business contact and you have just one or two floors worth of time to sell your idea. Of course, you hope that having heard your elevator pitch, the guy is going to invite you into his office for a longer conversation, so you can save the details – the finances and all your complicated marketing strategies – for then. The elevator pitch is about getting his attention, and getting yourself that chance to pitch more fully.

It’s not easy. 25 words is not many, an elevator moves up a floor or two in a matter of seconds, but if you think about some of the greatest innovations of all time, it’s possible to see how it might work. With stories, it’s maybe harder. I have grappled with a few of my favourite novels and I don’t know how I would sum them up persuasively and uniquely in so few words.

One of the suggested ways is to start big, then gradually cut out more and more of the words until you find the 25 or so that really convey the essence of the story. On Monday, I’m going to post the longer versions of my pitch to show the process by which I achieved the 25 words Madison is offering, but for now I don’t want to sway you with more detail. Be sure to stop by next week and check out that post though. And in the meantime, please do pop over and see my pitch on Madison’s site.

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