Friday, September 5, 2008

Splendor in the Slush

What kind of manuscripts would make you sit up and take notice? Humor? Emotional impact? Character driven novels? Unusual situations? All of the above? Anything you are tired of seeing and want writers to avoid?
Editors get this sort of question all the time, and it's like a mom asking what color hair we'd prefer her son to have?—how tall should he be?—would we like him to have an accent?

Looking for the right manuscript is like dating.

And just like in dating, there's love and then there's attraction. There's a difference between the manuscript I want for a best friend and confidante and the manuscript I want to spend the next year and a half in bed with.

But what inspires both love and attraction is personal, no matter which editor you talk to. Take a guess at how many different kinds of books there are—that's approximately how many different kinds of editors there are. So are you seriously going to make your son shave his head if I tell you I'm most attracted to bald men?

The first person who has to love what you create is you. After that, you have to raise your manuscript right and teach it good manners. It should know how to play nicely with others. It should be strong, but unafraid to be human. It should know how to offer the best of itself to the people it loves.

Of course (as we've seen) there are a number of manuscripts in slush that only a mother could love. (And there are a thin few that are the literary equivalent of circus freaks.) There are many that are never published, but which would make wonderful matches for many people. But if you can give your manuscript the qualities it needs to be a heartthrob, then it may indeed win the love and adoration of thousands.

11 comments:

Susan said...

I'm intrigued by those 'literary equivalent of circus freaks'...though I should be happy I'm not *forced* to read them I suppose.

Being reminded of how subjective editing can be is oddly reassuring and depressing at the same time.

Vodka Mom said...

That was an elegant and lovely way to describe this process. thank you..

Deirdre Mundy said...

So... Are Authors Natalie Wood? Or are the editors?

Diana Evans said...

thanks for the great read...very interesting perspective...

ChrisEldin said...

*shoves children into car and careens down road to the nearest barber shop*

Perhaps I'm the only one who can read the code in your message. I'm going to send a photo of my shaven children with my query letters as evidence of my dedication.
:-)

Deirdre Mundy said...

Since one of the marks of a good guy is how he treats his mom, is one of the marks of a good manuscript how it treats its author?

In that case, this one is SUNK. It never cooks me dinner and I swear it forgot my birthday! =)

MyVerbocity said...

Deirdre,

Since today's culture is much more open, I suppose there's nothing that says you can't have two manuscripts at the same time. Perhaps an on-again/off-again revision relationship?

Sarah Laurenson said...

I'm sure Thing 1 and Thing 2 will look great bald, Chris.

Great post, EA!

Suzanne said...

It sounds as if finding a home for your manuscript means finding an agent/editor who happens to like your type of book. (at least on that day)

Africakid said...

Your title made me laugh! Then I had to Google "Splendor in the Grass." The movie summary:

A fragile Kansas girl's unrequited and forbidden love for a handsome young man from the town's most powerful family drives her to heartbreak and madness.

Yeah, some slush might drive you to that.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Unless Splendor in the Slush is:

A fragile, reclusive Author's love for a high-status imprint at a closed house drives her to stalking, madness, and, finally, PUBLISHAMERICA!

Can Jackson Brown make a movie about Splendor in the Slush??? PLEASE????? It would be HILARIOUS!!!!

(*note-- the part about 'Splendor in the Grass' that I most remember is the bit where the young man discovers pizza! Ahhh.... overwrought teen romance...... and the evils of reading Whitman....)