Toni’s advice to first time novelists

Stein on Writing by Sol Stein99% of the submissions I see are from first time novelist.  Seldom do the manuscripts make me care for the protagonist(s).  Seldom have these writers ever taken courses in fiction writing with reputable instructors or in universities with reputable fiction writing courses. Seldom do they turn to  excellent books  that “show” them how to master the skills of fiction writing: story, character development, point of view, voice, plot, pacing, and how to write charged dialogue, setting, other skills.

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don't use adverbsSeldom do the writers, who send their pages to this agency, know they use “hack” writing.  Hack meaning now overused by almost every writer.  Starting a sentence with the “as” parallel, or its brother, the gerund (e.g  Having shot her, he turned on his heel and said as he passed, “So long, sucker.”).  That’s a double “hack” by the way.  Or the adverb plague that a lot of writer’s still lean on: “I hate you!” she said furiously.  The exclamation point to show the reader how really angry “she” is ( as though punctuation conveys emotions); then the tacked on adverb to make sure the reader knows what the writer meant. (Insecure writer flag)  I see all this over and over and if I didn’t have my dogs to show me how they live with joy in the moment, I’d grow sad. Once in a great while, something will come to the agency that shows writing that reads like  pure silk, my hackles remain smoothed,  my editing pencil goes untouched.

Because I find so many would be novelists, who’ve worked hours and hours, wrote pages and pages, and most of that work needed heavy editing, I developed a course for writers and began giving workshops.  That started in 1992, and continues to this day.  What I learn from some of those who attend my workshops, or the bootcamps in tandem with Shelly Lowenkopf, is that though some have taken courses, worked in writing groups, no one ever taught them to master the basic skills, e. g. point of view.

I’m proud to say, one of these writers, who took the pen name of Robin Winter, I was able to place with a publisher last month. Ms Winter and I have worked together since October 2010. She worked hard rewriting the entire ms over and over. And finally, after submitting to several publishers the last draft, we found an enthusiastic publisher in Imajin Books of Edmonton, Canada. I am so proud.

Several other writers are almost to the point of delivering a finished manuscript to this agency, after working with me for many years. Because writers do have to work at day jobs, keep house, raise children, take care of aging parents,  their writing takes time to polish and refine. I understand.

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1 Response to Toni’s advice to first time novelists

  1. Sharon Spencer Schlesinger says:

    Straight and to the point. Since I started taking “tea with Toni” I’m creating at a level I didn’t know I could possibly achieve.

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