Part 1 aired last Thursday.
Cheryl, in addition what are the top 3 reasons you reject a book?
Not necessarily in order:
1. I don’t find the characters or their conflicts all that interesting.
2. The narrative voice annoys me, and therefore I don’t want to spend two years listening to it. (Most likely because of broadcasting, as above.)
3. It isn’t something that I think I can publish effectively, either because I don’t think it’s very good, or because there are a lot of books like it already in the market, or because it’s not really an Arthur A. Levine Books type of book (meaning it will do better published as something other than a literary hardcover book).
I get up between 7 and 8, do all the typical morning stuff, take the B train from my neighborhood in Brooklyn to the Broadway-Lafayette stop in Manhattan, and arrive at the office by 9:30, where I have a cup of tea and check my e-mail. I deal with any fires there, then try to turn to the first thing on my to-do list—whether it’s negotiating a contract (which can involve a lot of talking to other departments) or writing flap copy or preparing for a presentation or line-editing a manuscript or examining proofs.
The day then alternates among those tasks, attending meetings, and continuing to deal with what comes in from our production department or over the phone or e-mail—though when I’m in the middle of a novel line-edit, that tends to subsume everything else for me, because I find the work so interesting and absorbing, and because line-edits take a while.
The last thing I do every night at work is write my to-do list for the next day, so that I have my priorities set and ready to go the next morning.
There are so many books on writing out there. What is your favorite book on plot? How about voice? (besides your own of course :)
The book on plot from which I’ve learned the most is Aristotle’s Poetics, which I read for the first time in college, but I was really lucky to have a great professor teaching me the significance of all the jargony theoretical statements in the book (the edition we read, anyway).
I also like The Fiction Editor by Thomas McCormack, which is also jargony, but says some really useful things about the larger points toward which plots should work.
What is the one piece of advice you would give a writer who keeps getting so close but doesn't make it?
Figure out what (1) your two greatest writerly strengths, (2) your favorite subject to read about, and (3) your two biggest weaknesses as a writer are.
Develop (do not yet start actually writing) a book that uses (1) to portray (2) and minimize (3). For instance, if you know your strengths are awesome characters and dialogue, and your favorite subject is romance, but you’re terrible at plotting and creating tension, come up with your awesome characters, but put them in a simple story that doesn’t involve a lot of tension—a love story with a straightforward central conflict that lets the characters do their thing.
Then get help with (3) to improve it as much as you can before you dive in; then write the book and revise it.
And have fun. When writers have fun, readers do too.
In the spirit of Actor's Studio, here a few questions for you. We'll call it Editors's Studio. First, what is your favorite word?
My boyfriend will tell you the word I say the most is “Meh” or “Feh.” The word whose sound I like the most . . . I’ve always been fond of “spackle.”
Wait, is that a word? :) Okay, how about the word you hate the most?
Hmm. Soundwise, I think I must have blocked this offending word from my mind, because I can’t think of one! Meaningwise, “failure.”
What is your favorite thing to do in your personal time (you cant say reading! :)
I love cooking and baking—the absorption of putting all these ingredients together in just the right quantities, the ability to listen to music or NPR while I work, the deliciousness that results, the pleasure of serving it to others (sometimes!) and eating it.
And lastly, what profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
In the realm of reality, I think I really would enjoy being a professional baker. In fantasy, I’d love to sing and dance in a Broadway musical. Both of those professions are about being part of a community and making other people happy through your work, and those are two of my greatest satisfactions in being an editor, too.
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