editing

Whole 30 Update No. 1: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly by Ryan Hill

 

The first few days of the Whole 30 program have come and gone, and somehow I'm still doing this thing.

Does it have to do with my fiancee's ultimatum that if I don't complete the 30 day program that I can never complain about gaining weight again for the rest of my life? A little.

Does it have to do with early results? A lot.

Now, I haven't magically dropped all the weight I want to, but I have dropped enough to make me curious what Week 2 will bring.

As for no soda/alcohol/pizza/enjoying life? That part is more out of sight, out of mind. So long as I don't talk about it, I'm okay. The second I start talking about it, I become a puddle of immaturity, kicking my legs in the air and begging my fiancee to let me off the hook. 

Of course, she won't let me off the hook.

I'm still getting used to drinking coffee with this ghetto Whole 30 approved creamer and the soda thing has been - so far - not too terrible, thanks to a supply of La Croix berry flavored soda.

I did try this gingerberry flavored Kombucha. It smelled like antiseptic. Tasted like it too.

Overall, I'd say Whole 30 isn't bad. But I still have the weekend to come, and that's when I like to let loose a bit.

Stay tuned.

Notes from a query reader by Ryan Hill

 

A couple of months ago, I started reading query letters/excerpts for a publishing house. The responsibilities are simple. If a submission is good, I recommend that the higher-ups take a closer look. If a submission stinks, I flush it down the toilet, just like that author's hopes and dreams. 

MUHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

But I digress.

I'm not here to gloat. I'm here to help.

Query letters are a mixed bag. I don't care if you've had other stuff published. A publishing history in a query gives me hope that the excerpt will be solid, but it's no a guarantee. A query letter needs to sell the manuscript first, yourself second. It doesn't matter if you won third prize in a beauty contest. 

This is what I'm looking to be sold on:

  • Can you write? A poorly written query letter typically spells doom for the excerpt. Just sayin'. One usually begets the other. That query needs to be edited to within an inch of its life. Make it snappy. Give it a voice. A unique voice. I'll talk more about voice later, but you're selling your book. DO THAT TO THE BEST OF YOUR ABILITIES.
  • Is the story good? Some queries... ugh. Awful, terrible story ideas. Other ideas are solid, but the writing isn't there. The story needs to stand out. Is it a fantasy? Then give a fresh take on the genre. Not just a different world with a hard to pronounce name, a whole new perspective. LIke Deadpool. Heck, even if the story isn't right for the publisher, good is good. I'll pass it on and let the powers that be decide what to do next. 
  • Does the story have a strong voice? This is what can give a story that edge. Push it over the top. Like Samuel L. Jackson says in Pulp Fiction, "personality goes a long way." An editor can work around a strong voice. A so-so story can be tightened up if the voice is there. The argument could almost be made that voice is more important than the story. Anyone can write in a neutral style, but it's the voice that can really set a manuscript apart from the others.
  • SWEET! Good story, strong voice... but can the publisher sell it? This is like the boss level for query submissions. The final battle. A story can be intriguing, the voice is there, but a publisher may not know how to sell it, etc. This has happened to me a few times. It's the way she goes. The story has to be different enough to stand out, but familiar enough to be relatable to a mainstream audience. It's kind of a Catch-22. 

Most of the queries I pass on tend to have the same problems:

  • The author isn't there yet. Keep writing, learning, and improving. You'll get there if you put the work in.
  • The manuscript isn't there yet. Maybe the manuscript is sloppy and needs more editing. Maybe the writing is lackluster and missing a voice, i.e. the author isn't there yet. Regardless, and I can't stress this enough. FIND YOUR VOICE. Mine is sarcastic and silly, with a bit of anxiety thrown in here and there. Hemingway's was terse and soaked in booze. WHAT'S YOURS? Keep writing, learning, and improving until you find your voice. A lot will start falling into place once you discover your voice.
  • The story isn't appealing. It has a been there, done that feel. Probably best to chalk up this submission as experience gained and move on to the next one.
  • The story is appealing, but not what the publisher is looking for. Such is life. If the manuscript is good enough, it'll find a home. Or it can be self-published. 
  • Everything is there. Story, voice, marketability, all of it. The problem? The excerpt is drowning in exposition.

Besides poor writing, too much exposition is the biggest killer of queries. World building is difficult. I know. Basic rule of thumb: only reveal parts of your universe when it's absolutely necessary. If it isn't important, leave it out. More often than not, exposition kills all narrative momentum. In screenwriting, the first ten pages are by far the most important. If a script doesn't don't grab the reader by, that script is going in the trash. Same goes for book submissions. Want to hook a reader?

GIVE YOUR EXCERPT A JAMES BOND MOMENT.

Throw the reader into the middle of the action right away. It's okay to let the reader try to wrap their mind around what's happening. That's called ENGAGING THE READER. Think about Harry Potter. The series begins with Harry as a baby being dropped off at his aunt's house. All the reader knows is Harry's parents were murdered and magic was involved. That's. It. The reader doesn't need to know anything else at that point. J.K. Rowling was so smart with her world-building. She eased the reader into that world, spending TWO WHOLE BOOKS ON SIMPLY ESTABLISHING HOGWARTS AND THE CHARACTERS. It's only in the third entry, Prisoner of Azkaban, that Rowling opens up the world. 

Look, too much exposition at the beginning is something I've been guilty of myself. But think about it. Remember the Star Trek reboot? That opening was AMAZING. The audience didn't have a clue what was going on until it was necessary. The only real exposition (that it was George Kirk's ship, his wife was on board, pregnant with James) comes naturally in the course of action, not because the film stopped to tell the audience about these people.

Ever see The Matrix? The first half of that film is fantastic, featuring one of the best cinematic twists of all-time. What comes after? The exposition. EVERYTHING comes to a stand-still so Keanu can learn about this new world. 

When it comes to exposition, start small. Work your way out. Not every piece of the universe you've created needs to be established right away. Not all of it even needs to be revealed to the reader. If it doesn't advance the plot, it doesn't matter - especially when trying to hook a reader. Exposition, taken as a whole, slows the action down. 

When trying to impress a reader with a query submission, focus on the action. You've got a finite amount of story to impress someone like me. Don't waste it on exposition. Trust me. I WANT TO BE IMPRESSED. I WANT TO MAKE IT DIFFICULT FOR THE POWERS THAT BE TO CHOOSE WHICH MANUSCRIPT TO PUBLISH. I MAY HAVE AN EVIL CACKLE, BUT I AM ON YOUR SIDE.

One big item to remember: EVERYTHING IS SUBJECTIVE. One submission I recommended a pass on wound up receiving a publishing offer from the powers that be. Everybody's tastes are different. Just because I'm not in love with a submission, doesn't mean the next person will feel the same way.

Don't lose hope if you get a rejection or two. Keep at it, KEEP GETTING BETTER, and eventually the worm will turn. The sun will shine on a dog's ass. The broken clock will be right. All it takes is one yes. The only failures are those who give up. The rest are still working toward their dreams and goals.

Introducing... ASK A DEMON by Ryan Hill

Have you ever needed advice on something, but were too scared to ask your parents? Want to know the best way to get revenge on that bully who won't stop giving you noogies? Then you've come to the right place!

Bartholomew, that handsome, smooth, dastardly scoundrel of a demon (his words, not mine) has graciously decided to take some time away from his busy schedule of chasing virgins and corrupting souls to answer questions from YOU, for FREE. Normally, this kind of thing requires payment in the form of a Maserati or, oh, YOUR SOUL, but Bartholomew is doing this for free. He'd never admit it, but personally? I think his friend Samantha put him up to it in the hopes he might actually help someone. Can't say for sure, though. 

Send your questions to ryan@ryanhillwrites.com with the subject line ASK A DEMON, and maybe Bartholomew will answer your question!

In the meantime, you can follow Bartholomew's shenanigans in THE BOOK OF BART, with parts 2 and 3 coming 2017!

So my credit card number got stolen by Ryan Hill

Which is awesome. And a great way to start the weekend. Really. Not just saying that.

Someone, I don't know who, but let's call them Asscheeks McGillicutty, tried to charge $140 worth of mess at a Sears in Virginia to my credit card. Fortunately, the card company caught it.

But I still have to go through the hassle of re-entering that info at places where I pay bills, subscribe to things, etc. 

Clearly, if Asscheeks had met me, things would be different. They'd stand in awe of my classically handsome face. They'd laugh at my jokes until they wet themselves. Not much, just a drop or two. Enough to know they needed to get control of themselves.

I imagine Asscheeks has patchy hair on their head, and what is there looks like cobwebs... maybe even has a fly or two stuck in there. They're probably wearing an old, tattered Hulkamania tank-top that was purchased in 1997 at a garage sale. I'm guessing it was found under a pile of moldy towels someone tried to sell for a dollar. I bet Asscheeks, if Asscheeks is a male, has donated blood and whatnot to places all over the country, so... the future has that to look forward to. As for Asscheeks McGillicutty, I hope their future involves an infuriating bout of PokemonGO where all they find are level 12 Rattata that sends them into a rage that lasts so long, they don't notice the steamroller coming at them from a mile away, despite the driver yelling, "Move! I don't want you to get squished!" repeatedly for thirty minutes to no avail. 

Then, as quickly as Asscheeks McGillicutty entered my life, they were gone. Squished. Flattened like a pancake on the road.

Seems like a fair and just fate.

Introducing RANDOM ACTS OF SILLINESS by Ryan Hill

 

With the upcoming May 24 release of my third novel, The Conch Shell of Doom, I'm throwing almost all shame (what little remains, at least) out the window. I want this to be my best release yet. I want this release to make The Beatles appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show to seem like no big whoop. That may not happen - it almost certainly won't - but a guy can dream, right?

To help Conch Shell have a big release, I need your help to get the word out. But, I also want this to be fun for everybody. I want you all to feel like you're getting something out of it besides good karma. As such, if the book hits certain milestones in terms of Amazon ranking, you all can decide on a RANDOM ACT OF SILLINESS for me to do. I'm willing to do pretty much anything except risk life (definitely not) and limb (absolutely not) for this. Or something that will get me arrested. Or fired. You know, big, life-altering in a very bad way kind of stuff. 

These are the milestones I'm laying out. Some of these are for overall Amazon rank, others for reaching No. 1 in a sub-category.

Overall Amazon rank milestones:

No. 75,000
No. 50,000
No. 25,000
No. 10,000
No. 1,000
No. 100
No. 1

Sub-category rank milestones - there are three milestones:

No. 1 in one sub-cat
No. 1 in two
No. 1 in all three

The greater the milestone, the greater the act of silliness I'm willing to subject myself to. If I reach No. 75,000, for example, I could maybe do a dramatic reading of something. Fifty Shades of Grey, Shakespeare, The Big Bang Theory, anything. The sillier the better. If I crack the Top 100, maybe I'll dye my hair green. It all depends on what you suggest. 

If you're interested in helping spread the word on May 24, sign up for my release day blitz, fill out your information (you don't need a blog to participate), and in the "Comments/Questions" box at the bottom, indicate your RANDOM ACT OF SILLINESS suggestion - just be sure to introduce your comment/question with RANDOM ACT OF SILLINESS

The ideas that are picked will win a signed paperback of The Conch Shell of DoomIf I somehow hit No. 1, ALL the winning ideas will receive SIGNED PAPERBACKS of ALL THREE OF MY BOOKS. That's pretty cool if you ask me, but since I wrote the books I may be a bit biased. 

Don't worry about assigning your idea to a milestone. I'll do that based on degree of difficulty and/or level of silliness. 

Thanks in advance for all of your help. If this goes well, I may make it a tradition for all future releases.

Enjoy!

Ryan