Should You Phone or Email Your Editor?

Whenever a client (or potential client) wants to talk on the phone, I silently cry inside, “Editors don’t do phone!” I’m kidding of course, but not completely. By nature, editors are most comfortable with the written word and therefore prefer to communicate by email. If an author wants to speak to me, I will, even if my palms sweat a bit at the thought. There are benefits to speaking to an author on the phone, but there are also disadvantages. Whether to call or email your editor is a matter of personal preference. Pros and cons lie with both.

call-me-13286064Pros to Phoning Your Editor:

1) Spontaneity: Interaction on the phone can lead to unplanned conversations or details about your project. It might even lead to a new project.

2) Some things can be more easily explained on the phone.

3) Phone calls can eliminate the back-and-forth emailing of “Is this what you mean?” You get everything nailed down in one (or two) conversations.

4) Talking on the phone gives that personal touch. Nice? Sure. But I’ve had clients for years whose voices I’ve never heard, and yet I feel close to them. Note that this is not an editorial advantage but a human perk.

Pros to Emailing Your Editor:

email me1) You have everything in writing. As an editor, I often refer back to see what the author wanted—did he or she want me to pay special attention to dialogue? Comment on chapter length? Note character inconsistencies? As a writer, you can review previous conversations and often find answers to questions that come up. Even if you and your editor decide to put in writing everything you discussed on the phone, you will not recall everything, and you both might remember things differently.

2) Email creates a permanent record of communication that can always be referenced.

3) E-mail allows you to think about exactly what you want to say and then detail it in a well-thought-out note. When speaking, people interrupt each other, lose their train of thought, or think of things after they hang up.

4) People are generally less intimidated in email. The author-editor relationship is based on openness and honesty, which is easier to maintain in email.

5) Email exchanges can be revisited as often as desired, which can result in new perspectives. How many times have you reread an email and thought, “Huh, I didn’t notice that the first time?”

call or email

About my preference for email? I like to think about what I’m going to say. My spontaneous answers are never as good as my reflective ones. And I always want to offer the best possible answers/work/solutions to my clients. I liken this to first drafts. They are never your best work, right? Phone calls are like your first drafts. Emails are (or can be) your final copy.

Now that I’ve expounded the virtues of calling and emailing your editor, with an obvious bias for emailing, I must disclose the fact that once I get started in the editing process, my clients rarely even find the need to email me. The emailing usually occurs before the project begins. By the time I start, they have a solid idea of what will be done with their manuscript, document, or website. When I return the edited document, I make it clear that they are welcome to ask any questions related to the edits. I check my email a gazillion times a day. My phone will almost always go to voicemail, but I will return your call … even if it makes my eye twitch a little.

If you do talk to your editor on the phone, remember to keep the chit-chat to a minimum. As excited as you might be about your new puppy (who wouldn’t be?) or the latest sensation on Netflix, your editor needs to get started on your project, so have those questions and/or details ready to go!

As always, happy writing!

Dream Sequences

There’s a reason many agents cringe when they encounter dream sequences, unless done for the right reasons. They are usually a cheap way of expressing information. Writers often use dreams to help the reader understand what is lurking in the character’s mind, to untangle the protagonist’s quandary, or subconsciously reveal the next steps for the hero or villain. These are all quick and dirty ways to avoid using narration, action, and dynamic scenes, which will unearth the same information while engaging the reader and moving the story along. Dream sequences often disempower characters. They rob them of their own skill and intelligence to make decisions. Instead, answers are handed to them in a dream. Image result for dreams writing

When you anticipate an upcoming dream scene, how do you feel? Do you look forward to it or skim it and discount its importance? What about when you’re gripped by a confrontation between lovers only to find out it was a dream?

As an editor, when I hit a dream sequence, I carefully note whether it works. Usually it doesn’t. And I feel particularly disappointed and cheated when I’m not told that a dream is coming. I might be reading about the antagonist crashing a wedding ceremony in an effort to kidnap the bride, only to find out he was dreaming this scenario. It’s like that author is saying, “Ha ha, gotcha.”

Dream sequences often interrupt the flow, delay the story, and bore the reader, even if well written, because the reader is aware that this is only in the character’s subconscious. And if for no other reason, agents and editors usually wince at dream sequences, especially when they open the story. They simply delay the action, the hook, and setting.

Writers sometimes use dreams to show off their flowery prose or their creative imagination … and readers see right through this. Writers would be better off writing the best prose they can rather than looking for ways to impress the reader. Before penning a dream sequence, ask yourself: Does this move the story along, and is it the best method for doing so? Is this dream necessary?

Here are a few scenarios where dream sequences could work:

The character is so stubborn, frightened, or immobilized that it is nearly impossible to act (as in Hamlet’s crippling inability to kill Claudius) that only a dream will prompt him to do so.

Dreams work when they are an important part of the story. For example, in A Nightmare on Elm Street, Freddie Krueger haunts his victims in their dreams, so even though we know what’s coming, dream sequences are essential to the plot, and are the only way to even encounter the boogieman. And of course this is a film, not a book, which relies on visuals.

Image result for dreams books

Dreams can work well in non-fiction, especially if the book centers on the study of dreams or the inclusion of dreams. For example, a psychologist might write a book about the Freudian interpretations of dreams.

Dreams can work in fiction for the same reason. For example, Stephen Lawhead’s sci-fi novel, “The Dream Thief” contains dream sequences, and they are expected in a story like this. Books that explore drug use, fantasy, or otherworldy landscapes can also appropriately contain dream sequences.

Children’s stories can work beautifully with dream sequences, as long as they are necessary and well-written. Alice in Wonderland is a prime example.

If you want your character to have a dream, it works better to simply say, “Mrs. Parsons dreamt of her high school sweetheart, Roland. Guilt stabbed her as she awoke to fresh coffee and blueberry pancakes her husband had made for her.” It’s not necessary to detail the dream; it is enough to know that her subconscious gnawed at her. And in cases like this, it is okay to talk about the fact that a character had a dream. In fact, it can add nuance to a story.

So, sleep on it, and let me know your thoughts …

Author James McGrath Morris Tells Readers What’s Next

A couple of months ago, I had the astounding pleasure to hear author James McGrath Morris (Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print, and Power; Harper Perennial, 2011; The Rose Man of Sing Sing; Fordham University Press, 2005) speak at St. John’s College, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His personable, humorous, and highly informed presentation included up-to-date information on the current state of publishing.  Here are a few of the random tidbits that raised a few readers’ eyebrows:

The largest e-book reading audience (41%) are people ages 30-49. (Didn’t you think it would be a tad younger?)

[Read more…]

Tucson Festival of Books

I will be attending the Tucson Festival of Books on March 15 and 16 and cannot wait. I’m not usually a great networker, but I’m learning to embrace it. Writers are everywhere, and they all need a fantastic editor. Anyone going? Let me know!

-Valerie