Saturday, December 10, 2005

Made in China

After reading some common whines on various blogs about how publishers, agents, and the evil empire need writers but don't give them the respect they deserve, I have concocted the following economic model:
The readers are customers of the bookstores.
The bookstores are customers of the publishers.
The publishers are customers of the agents.
Agents are customers of the writers.
And most writers produce a "made in China" product.
That should tell you something.
I'm not sure what exactly.
But there it is.
According to revelations available from agents/editors, about 85% of the stuff they get is impossible - absolutely crude, stupid and impossible.
However, if you can spell, conjugate and construct, you still might like to save the "whoo-whoos" and that thread-bare expression "the Snoopy dance."
There's more to it.
Variously described as luck, hang-overs, timing, voice, PMS, etc. etc.
O.K., so you're out of the midden of that 85% and into a smaller pond - mixing metaphors is another no-no, by the way ( you will observe that rules such as this are not consistently applied by critics) - and writers assiduously seek to shave the odds.
Which brings us to paragraphing.
Throw what ever you may have learned about the proper, logical construction of paragraphs out the window.
Especially if you're writing fiction.
Especially if you're writing mystery, thriller fiction.
There is another trick to invade the subconscious of the agent/editor/reader.
A purely mechanical trick.
Short paragraphs.
Short, short paragraphs.
They move the eye along, producing a faster pace.
Pant, pant.
Joe Konrath - see link in preceeding post - did a loose study of it.
He has a point.
Think about it.


AE Rought said...

I had an editor for my very first novel (for which revisions have been requested for publication consideration!!) and he shortened up alot of my paragraphs. More than a few stand-alone sentences, too. We did no mix metaphors, spelled and puntunctated properly. Hopefully it was not a 'made in China product'... I know the most recently completed novel is NOT.

I like your declention of purchasing, and therefore power, in this industry.

Bernita said...

Writers sometimes forget we are at the bottom of the food chain.
Mind you, there is a market for the dollar store "made in China" product.

Ric said...

Still trying to find THAT market. The article was very insightful.All this and now we have to worry about their ATTENTION SPAN.
Good Grief.

ps Snoopy dance naked in Times Square.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

you're right Bernita, just look at the examples of 'writing' that show up on Miss Snark's site.

Joe's article was very inciteful. I took it to heart.

But ric, "Snoopy dance naked in Times Square"...I was there last weekend. It's way to cold for that.

(In other you remember that episode of Seinfeld, where George Castanza got caught with his pants down after coming out of the pool?)

Bernita said...

Ric,remember the "smell" advice?
Another "mechanical" form of odds shaving, though it goes beyond structure.
One writer admitted she kept her paper beside her chocolate chip cookies.
Should thriller writers use essence d'gunsmoke?
Which makes me wonder what a hot, hot romance writer would do...

But I think the para-length advice is good advice.
By and large.

Bernita said...

Yes, Bonnie.
Found that I had started to do that with paragraphs and was happy to see that Konrath confirmed my instinct.
It's partly a visual thing, like appropriate font.

M. G. Tarquini said...

Agreed on Joe's advice. Books with lots of white space and short paragraphs atract me. Stephen King loses me when he goes into the free association thing with italics.

Bernita said...

Some subjects and styles don't suffer with normal paragraphs, but a judicious examination of length is something to consider and implement when possible.

Robyn said...

I have very short paragraphs normally; I think it's because I write a lot of dialogue. I tend to like short, snappy patter as opposed to long monologues. It ups the page count without a lot of typing, that much I can assure you. ;)

Bernita said...

Makes it crisp and brisk, lucky Robyn.
It's been suggested that people with an academic background have the most to unlearn about paragraphing.Another case of hard wiring.
And if one has a character addicted to long monologues, allow him one - and then interrupt him ever after. Or cut him completely.Yoda method of characterization works best when it's short and easily recognized.
Just don't reduce the page so it looks like a list. The "who's on first" can get tiresone very quickly.

ScaramoucheX said...


Bernita said...

Fado is for song.

Sela Carsen said...

Newspaper writers write in short paragraphs, too. Columns are such skinny things.
Like Robin, I write in short paragraphs naturally. But my tendency is to strip a story down to its bones anyway.

Bernita said...

Bones is good.
Flesh is easier to add than flense.