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Ask The Editor

This Friday instead of the usual publisher/editor interview, it’s ask the editor day. I hope this will become a regular feature and if you have a question who’d like to ask our next featured editor, feel free to e-mail me at susanpalm2010@gmail.com

Today’s editor is Piper Denna, Editor in Chief with Lyrical Press. www.lyricalpress.com

Susan Palmquist (SP)-Any sites you recommend we check out for grammar tips?

 
Piper Denna (PD)-To be really, embarrassingly, honest… if I have a grammar question, I usually just type it into my search bar and go. My poor authors would die if they knew how many times I’ve typed in “Lay or laid?”–No matter how many times, I always have to go back and check that one.
 
SP-How about sites for improving your writing?
 

PD-I think there are almost as many writing sites as there are writers! But one I’ll vouch for any day is Charlotte Dillon’s. http://www.charlottedillon.com/RWC.html
She has so much helpful information in one place…and it’s not all about romance writing. Lots on queries, synopsis, promotion… you name it. (also a very large critique group, the first one I ever joined)
 
SP-What are editor’s biggest pet peeves?

PD-I think there are as many editor pet peeves as there are writers. (seeing a pattern here?LOL) No, seriously, if I could choose one, at least from all the comments I see on the Lyrical Press Screeners group, where all the editors review submissions (did that just make you scared, to imagine us all picking those subs apart, muahahahaha?), I’d say laziness. Sending in a sloppy query or doing a lazy pre-edit, or even just halfway going about fixing the stuff we ask for in edits. We eds(excluding that horse with the peanut butter always on his teeth) put forth a ton of effort and spend loads of time working on books to make them great. It’s really frustrating if the author doesn’t want to work at least as hard.
 
SP-What mistakes do you see over and over again?

PD-If we had a cover page and slogan on our Screeners group (the roundtable where we review cold submissions), it would be, “Prologues must die.” Many of our editors despise prologues, and use this phrase repeatedly. I’m okay with them if they are used properly–but I’m in the itty bitty minority, and they are seldom used properly. A prologue should only be used if it’s imperative for the reader to see before they start reading the story. And it should be brief–not more than 2 or 3 pages. Period. If it’s longer than that, it’s probably, as Simon Cowell might say, “A bit self-indulgent”. That much information–if you can’t work it into the story someplace–would be better utilized on a website as a teaser or freebie to help promote the book. But don’t bog down the beginning of your book with that much backstory!
 
SP-When (and is it ever) okay to break the rules?

PD-I’m a rule-breaker. But I write romance, and romance has a bajillion rules, many of which I feel are downright outdated and enforced by some crazy old biddies cackling over writers’ loops around the net. *coughs* I didn’t just say that out loud, did I?
Yes, I probably did.

My answer would be, it depends on the rule you want to break. Got an untraditional way for your story to start? Go for it.
Unusual POV character? Sure.

Wanta leave the ending off your synopsis? I would not recommend it. You’ll tick off any editor reviewing your submission.

Want your heroine to hook up with the guy who started out as a villain in your romance? Hey, if you can pull it off, I’m fine with it.

Maybe your book includes just one itty bitty rape scene, that you’re sure readers won’t find offensive, and the publisher you’re subbing to does not allow rape. Should you go for it? That would be a Capital NO.

Please follow those submission guidelines.

Wanting to write a romance in omniscient point of view? You can do it, but you probably won’t sell it.
So… it depends.
 
SP-We all have our Achilles heel, mine is commas. I’ve been told to place them where you’d take a natural break in speaking? Any other tips for the dreaded comma dilemma?

PD-They say some people are born spellers, and others are not. I tend to think it’s the same for commas. The “pause” rule is the best method I can come up with, if you’re not a natural-born Comma Queen. But take heart: commas are darn easy to fix in edits.
 
SP-Here’s a situation I’m sure editors often face. It’s a great story but needs work. Does it always mean an instant rejection or are most editors willing to take a second look at a manuscript if the writer’s willing to rewrite it?

PD-If we see potential in a story, we’ll ask for a R & R (revise and resubmit). If that author is willing to put forth the effort we asked for, we’ll certainly give that submission another go when it comes back to us. And personally, I feel more lenient that second time around, if I see the writer tried to do what we asked.
 
SP-What about critique partners? Does every writer need one? If so, how do you find a good match? Does it have to be someone who writes in the same genre?


PD-In my personal opinion, all writers need critique partners. You simply cannot see the weak spots in your own writing. And finding those weak spots in others’ writing makes our own writing stronger. I think personality is more important than genre…if you want somebody to slather on as many compliments as suggestions, then you’ll probably find a CP who feels the same way. I found 6 fantastic CPs early in my career. We all write a little different, but know what to expect from one another in a critique. Having a sounding-board you can trust to be honest, yet not mean, is very important. (Remember, yo mamma isn’t gonna tell you the truth about your writing)
 
SP-When we’re proofreading our work, any tips of the trade for finding mistakes we often overlook?


PD-Once you’ve been through edits, you’ll know what your weakness is–your editor will tell you. LOL. Watch out for that in the future–chances are you do it again and again when you write. And of course, lean on your critique partners. 🙂 That’s what you’ve got them for!