The Ruben Conundrum

Minecraft Story Mode fans all know Ruben. Of course, Ruben is the cute pet pig that’s been keeping everybody company for eons until … (spoiler alert!) Ruben dies.

Characters in books die. Villains, secondary characters, even main characters die sometimes depending on the story being told. But should beloved characters die?

The foreshadowing in a book can take readers right to the edge of being able to guess the outcome of a character’s surviving or not. It can prepare them for what’s coming. That foreshadowing can fool a reader too, which can be annoying rather than endearing. The writer has a difficult task when he’s gained the reader’s trust only to reveal the death of a favorite lovable character mid-story.

Every book won’t appeal to every reader, and naturally every reader is subjective. And most certainly not every beloved character will live every time. The trick is for the writer not to pull a ‘Ruben’. The shock is unpleasant, the outrage is palpable and the disgust at an outcome without that special character having survived will last. We can’t help but love the ‘Rubens’ in the books we read. Let’s let him live! Mostly!

“Do what you have to do, until you can do what you want to do.”

Oprah Winfrey’s advice is quite right, and has likely been uttered in many different ways by others.

Right now for me this means editing. Yes, I know my characters well, but do they show their true selves in their actions or do they say too much? To be real, alive and honest on the page they must behave like flesh and blood people. It’s what they don’t say that speaks louder than what they say out loud.

What I have to do right now is keep polishing this uncut gem until it’s ready for scrutiny by those in the big leagues that can take it to the next step in getting published.

Why YA?

Reading is the ultimate journey, writing is the road map to get you there. Why write YA? Because it’s the most exciting, confounding, depressing time of our lives. It’s also full of choices.

Yeah, sure; do we really get to choose what happens next in our lives at any given time. Absolutely NOT! But we have the choice of how to handle what happens and how to deal with it. Not easy, but doable and that’s exactly what I force my characters to face, head on, willingly or unwillingly, kicking and screaming or silently loathing but determined.

And that’s why YA. Doors open into new avenues, possibilities and potentially impossible goals. We figure we can deal with anything; until a bump in the road or a mountain of a problem comes up to sidetrack us, challenge us to step up or lay down and give up.

It’s all about incremental effort: winning at anything isn’t easy. It’s a marathon of effort, sometimes taken in the tiniest of steps, tens of thousands of them, that get us to where we want to be. Sounds hard, and is it worth it? Of course it is, every single time.



The End is Near!

Writing is not a race, it’s a marathon; completing a project: short story, novella, full length novel; all are great accomplishments and it is so satisfying to write the last line of a WIP and type ‘The End’.

The End, however is only the beginning. It’s the time you, the writer, must go back to the very beginning of the book (or other project) and edit, polish, revise whatever is required to make the book the very best it can be. A first draft will rarely cut it, though some writers manage to pull that off.

Once the book is as polished as possible, there are many other things to consider. Is the book ready for the eyes of a reader? If so, then who should read it? We don’t all have critique partners and most of the time family doesn’t qualify as critiquers. Beta readers? They can be helpful in providing an opinion, but are they professional enough to let their subjective views sway you into making changes you may not be comfortable with? Tough questions and one size does not fit all.

The options are many and include having the book professionally edited for a price that can be well worth it; entering contests for feedback from professionals; vying for a spot in the many mentoring programs that have become popular. Or simply starting the querying process and approaching agents and/or publishers with your newborn book!



How To Meet A Senior Editor From A Very Important Publishing House

The phrase ‘unable to accept unsolicited manuscripts’ or something similar is a common refrain from many large publishing houses as well as some agents. This is for good reason, and can vary, but often helps keep the volume of manuscripts received manageable; hopefully it also means solicited manuscripts are of a publishable caliber.

A writer represented by an agent can often get their manuscript in front of a senior editor at a publishing house with this rule in place because of the professional relationship the agent and the editor already have.

Meeting an editor at a workshop or conference is a great way to get to know that editor, their pet peeves and their potential ‘wish list’ of books they’d love to see. Many editors also give attendees the opportunity to send a query and partial manuscript their way as long as its complete and polished.

Take the editor’s ‘Do’s and Don’t’ to heart and use them to ensure your manuscript is something they’d consider. Take the time to polish and revise your manuscript before sending it out. And write a professional query letter with a great hook to whet the editor’s appetite so that she might ask to see more of your manuscript.