October 19, 2007

"Tine Funing" Your Manuscript

Within the next week or so, I’m going to begin the anxious process of submitting my latest manuscript to agents, publishers, anyone who knows an agent or publisher, or anyone who ever sat next to one on a bus. This means my work has to be impeccable, with no mistakes, and without typographical errors and writer’s gaffes that tell the reader that I’m just not trying hard enough. I have a writer friend who also is ready to submit his work to agents and he jokingly tells me he’s in the process of “tine funing” his story. Oh boy.

He does that a lot, mispronouncing words, or mixing up sentences in a weak attempt to humorously demonstrate common writing errors. He’s a good friend, and as much as I want to laugh at loud whenever he says his giving his pages some “tinishing fouches,” or something like that, I cringe instead. I’ve read a lot of what he writes, and thankfully, he doesn’t inject those kinds of jokes into his submissions to agents. Not that I’m funny. My jokes are pretty dry and work a lot better in person and when my audience has a couple of drinks in them. But his sense of humor is just plain embarrassing.

Anyway, I’m ready to plunge, once again, into the milieu of query letters, plot summaries, and the “first five pages." Interesting note about sending the first five pages, I used to wonder how someone can make a judgment about an entire 75,000 word document by skimming the opening paragraphs. Then, it dawned on me: I do it too. Whenever I’m searching for something to read in the library or the bookstore, I’ll pick up a book, read the inside flap and then the back cover; and if it still interests me, I look at the first page. If I’m really dedicated, I’ll stick with it through the second page. Talk about agents being choosy, I’m just as guilty.

Honestly, an agent or a publisher asks for the first five to ten pages because they are professionals who are able to assess your skill as a writer by reading a few paragraphs. The idea is that if you make mistakes in the opening pages of your story, they are going to be present throughout the entire text. If you commit common spelling and grammatical errors right off the bat, then there’s an excellent chance they will be present throughout. Finally, if your story does not grab them immediately, then they won’t bother with it as they have so many more submissions to go through.

If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know that I don’t purport to be an expert on my craft. In fact, I am a student who will forever be catching up on the basics and striving to advance my ability. Is this blog perfect? No way. But I give it time and effort as I do have folks who generously stop by and read my posts and offer kind and constructive comments. If there is anyone out there who wants to unfairly criticize the writing in this blog, remember one thing before you do so: This blog is a freebie. Anything I wish to sell gets my complete, professional attention. It takes me months to write the first draft of a novel, and years to re-write, edit and polish it. These blog posts I bang out in a few minutes. Go ahead and tear me apart and I'll accept what is fair; but, make sure you leave the link to your own blog for good measure. I get an awful lot of "anonymous" advice.

Still, I do want to make a good impression here. My “voice” on this blog is casual, and I write many of my posts with my tongue in my cheek. With that said, in much the same way I want to make sure that I don’t insult my blog visitors by not caring about sentence structure or grammar, I want to impress literary agents by showing them that I don't make amateurish mistakes, at least not in the first five to ten pages anyway.

16 comments:

footiam said...

Mistakes can be checked easily now that all of us are using the so user- friendly computers. I don't profess to know a lot, but you do write very well and as long as you have a good story, you should be able to make it, unless of course, luck is against you; that is, if you believe in such thing as luck. Good luck!

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi footiam,
Spell check has also made writers a bit lazy. One still has to check for style and format. If you I my work aloud, I discover some basic flaws in sentence structure. I'm no expert, and I hope someone picks up my errors. Thnaks. for stopping by and giving me a read.

Elaine said...

Wow good luck! What enormous pressure on those first few opening paragraphs! First impressions are everything it seems.

Enjoy your weekend.

Mr. Grudge said...

Thanks Elaine! I never thought of it that way. It is an enormous amount of pressure. Wow. I appreciate you taking the time to visit my humble, little blog. Enjoy your weekend as well.

~Mike~ (Mr. Grudge)

Kimchihead said...

Good luck!

I have found that writing is a lot like shooting. It's a perishable skill.

I look forward to reading your book. :)

Mr. Grudge said...

Very true. If you put your writing aside for a while, you get rusty. One of this things blogging helps me to do is stay sharp. Thank you so much for your kind words, Kimchihead.

footiam said...

I know what you mean and that kind of work is rather tedious. I have read elsewhere , long, long ago that modern writers are encouraged to use simple words, simple sentences to get through today's people but con noisier would slam that.Anyway, if you were to search for this Helium in the Internet, there's an outlet for writers.

Mr. Grudge said...

Thank you Footiam. I will look into Helium. Others have used it with varying degrees of success. I'll have a go at it. Thank you so much for reading my humble, little blog.

~Mike~ (Mr. Grudge)

Kristyn said...

I know people like your friend, with a tragic sense of humor. My husband tells some pretty good jokes, some incredible anecdotes, but often they're heartbreakingly bad. I usually shake my head and move on.

Interesting side note, those sorts of switches, where one exchanges the first letter of the first and last prominent word in a sentence, "Tine Funing" and so on, is a linguistic phenomenon called Spoonerism. I know you're friend probably does it to be funny, but I thought I'd toss out one of those useless bits of knowledge floating about in my brain.

I think your blog is awesome! It's well written, you have a very distinctive "causal" voice.

Best,
Kristyn

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Kristyn,
You say your husband's jokes are heartbreakingly bad...my wife would say the same about mine. I guess it's a wife thing. I think all wives are supposed to roll their eyes at their husbands. However, my friend's humor really is that bad. I wouldn't say the knowing what "spoonerism" means is useless because I could have used that definition four days ago when I wrote this post, ha ha. Thanks for your really nice compliment about my writing and my "casual voice." I try hard with this blog because it keeps me prolific. Before I started this writer's blog (in it's previous incarnation, it was an ill-fated baseball blog) I was the type of writer who could only work on one project at a time. This format has changed that for me and I write all the time. When I receive positive feedback from very nice and talented folks such as you, my head swells (kidding) it guides me in the right direction. I don’t know about participating in NaNoWriMo, even though I expressed an initial desire to do so. It sounds very exciting, yet daunting. I’ve already sketched out my fourth novel; yet, I am going to need more time to “tine fune” this last manuscript. I need another two weeks or so, and then I will be fully confident about sending it out. My job is busy this time of year and I have these two rotten kids, I mean two great kids to raise. I’ll keep visiting your blogs as I am a fan, and you’ll (gulp) read some more of my original fiction here, perhaps this week. Thanks so much for stopping by and also for your kind words about my blog. Be well.

~Mike~

Lisa McGlaun said...

Hi,
Best of luck with this. It takes time and landing your manuscript in front of the right agent. If I can be of any help...let me know..:)

Lisa

The Red Stone by Craig Smith said...

Hi Mike,

First off thanks for commenting on my blog. I'll leave a reply for you there. What you say is very true. I also wondered how could a person make a snap decision on whole novel just from the first few lines. And then I also realized these are busy people and don't have time to read the whole thing and should be able to tell from the first few paragraphs if the book is going to be good. But I think you have to nail two things down in the first few pages. One that you are a good writer and two you can tell a good, gripping and original tale. Good luck with your submissions! What kind of novel have you written?

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Lisa,
Thank you so much for your generous offer to help me in any way. You are so nice. Please know that I extend the same offer of help to you, though I may not have the experience and resources to be of any use to you. Still, I am willing to be a good blogging neighbor and extend a friendly hand to you as well, should you need it. I agree that my manuscript has to land in front of the right person, and it also has to be good. Thanks again! ~Mike~
(Mr. Grudge)

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Craig,
Nice to meet you. Thank you so much for stopping by and reading my post. Yes, I can only hope I tell a good, gripping and original tale. My first two weren't as good as I wanted them to be, I suspect. This latest one I have hope for because two objective and educated folks have read the manuscript already and really enjoyed it. They were given the pages to read with the proviso that they had to tell me the truth whether they liked it or hated it. My story is about an ex-cop who discovers he has a family member he never knew about. There will more details released as part of a longer post perhaps later this month. Sorry for being so vague! Thanks for your kind words of good luck. I will definitely be reading your blog again, and I wish ou a lot of luck as well. Talk to you soon.
~Mike~ (Mr. Grudge)

Kathy said...

Mike -- All I can say is that I'm in total awe of anyone who writes a book. I've always thought if I could write a book, I could die happy. My husband actually thinks I can do it. My blog, a three-month toddler now, is my first foray into regular writing. The only writing rule I follow is to write every day. It's very difficult at times, especially since I already have a full-time job. But I keep plugging away, and reading inspiring posts like this keeps me motivated.

Thank you for visiting my blog. I'm adding you to my feeds. I quite enjoy it.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Kathy, Nice to meet you. Thank you so much for your kind words. I've read your blog, and will continue to do so because you know how to tell a story...funny ones at that. Your husband thinks you can write a novel because it is obvious to both him, and anyone who reads what you write that you are a writer. I am a writer because I call myself one. You need to be aware that you too have this ability. Go ahead, write your book, be a novelist. Thank you once again for visiting my blog. I will continue to read yours. Good luck. ~Mike