Monday, May 16, 2011

Ray Rhamey has arrived!

Thank you Mr. Rhamey for coming by. Its a great pleasure to have you here today. I hope our readers will stop in and ask a lot of questions, maybe post a paragraph or two of their current project to get some fresh insight.

"Thank you for having me."




1. How long have you been part of the industry?

In the sense that I’ve devoured novels since I was a boy, virtually a lifetime. My first interest in publishing sparked when I graduated from college. But I had a degree in psychology, was in Texas, and had a family that I needed to support--I couldn’t figure out how to get into publishing. So I left that ambition behind.

Dissolve to decades later when my advertising career had pretty much run its course due to ageism and economic downturn. I had been writing novels and was a member of a critique group. Based on what I did in our weekly sessions, two members separately asked me to edit their novels. They found what I did to be very helpful.

You should understand that I had a long career in advertising as a creative director, which has a huge editorial function—copy has to be succinct and every word effective. Kinda hones your sense for how language works to affect a reader.

I found an online editorial service that contracted with editors for manuscripts. Very low rates, and they took a big cut. But I passed their qualifying test edit and did that for a couple of years. Some of the testimonials by the writers I edited are on my website at http://www.ftqpress.com/html/testimonials.html.

Encouraged by that, I started my on online editing service in 2001. I began my blog, Flogging the Quill, in 2005.


2. Why did you pick editing?

Editing picked me via the critique group when my high-level talent for it showed up. I’ve always had a knack for the English language—my college English teacher tried to recruit me to be an English major, and my years in advertising honed my natural understanding of how a narrative can work best.

And I enjoy editing. I work to keep the writer’s voice and develop it while improving the flow and pace of the narrative and the structure of the story. It’s like a gigantic puzzle, in a way, in which thousands of little pieces have to go together in the right way to deliver a compelling story. I like that challenge.


3. Your site, Flogging the Quill, has grown in the past few years. Where do you see it growing next?

I have no idea. About three years ago it evolved from posts about writing to primarily critiques of opening pages. That has seemed valuable to readers, it’s fun to do, it helps writers, so I plan to keep doing that for a while.


4. What genre do you find the most interesting?

As a reader, thrillers and suspense novels. As a youth, I read hundreds of science fiction and western novels as well, and my current writing incorporates aspects of all of those genres. I like mysteries, and have read romance novels that I liked. I’m a commercial fiction reader, and sometimes don’t have the patience for what I’ve seen deemed literary novels.


5. What's one of your pet peeves?

Manuscripts that don’t start with the story, which usually means pages of “info dump” exposition or a flashback. Many agents and editors will tell you that they frequently come across manuscripts that don’t really get started until about chapter three.

That happened to me in a critique group. When we came to chapter three of one novel, one member said, “Your story starts here.” He was right. I scrapped the two chapters and the opening was much better.


6. You've got several books of your own; do you find it harder to be an author than an editor?

No, they are very different aspects of being creative. Editing is much more analytical in nature, and, luckily, that appeals to me and I seem to have an ability for it. But my career started in the creative side in advertising, and I love to just do that. I not only write novels, but design the covers and interiors as well (a service I now offer to self-publishers at my website, ftqpress.com).

My current focus is on building my Indie publishing business, offering editorial and design services to authors who want to self-publish, and getting my own novels out there. I have three available in ebook formats, and two of them are also out in paperback. There are samples and info about them at ftqpress.com.


7. What's one thing that you would tell a writer is key to finding success?

The story is the thing. You have to have professional-caliber writing just to get in the door. As agent Kristin Nelson says, “Good writing isn’t enough.” I worked on screenwriting for a few years and mastered the format—I could write a strong screenplay that agents and producers found to be professional. But what I didn’t do was come up with a story that motivated a producer and investors to put up a few million dollars to produce. That’s what you’re asking when you submit a manuscript—for an agent to invest her time and for a publisher to invest his money to produce a story. That story is what takes you to publication, not your writing.

14 comments:

Heather Hiestand said...

Hi Ray and Pat!

I'm currently shopping a co-written steampunk urban fantasy novel and that query has been good enough to get response to queries, but the middle grade novel we wrote before that must have a terrible blurb because we never got anywhere with it. We're both multi-published so it's not like we can't do the work, but we suspect we aren't the best with queries. Here it is:

Can three fifth-grade girls and their siblings band together to battle against a growing menace in their town and help find out why witches are disappearing all over the world? Charlie Bone meets Abby Hayes in this girl-focused middle-grade paranormal novel of 27,000 words.

We are seeking representation for The Witch Princesses of Plum Bay. We envision this story as the first book in a series featuring the four main characters: Kiki Wong, an artist who speaks to animals, Sayako Ando, a transplant from Tokyo with the power to make origami come to life, Joy Bell, a popular athlete whose ability has not yet manifested itself, and her younger half-sister, Ariel Knight, a genius with weather-controlling abilities.

Any editorial advice? Thanks!

ray said...

I'm not sure rhetorical questions are strong--former literary agent Nathan Bransford hated them. More than that, the non-specific "growing menace" doesn't help you. Details create reality. I'd look for a way to show what the menace is, a clue as to the danger to the girls, and connect the witch thing to the former. If it doesn't connect, leave it out.

Heather Hiestand said...

Thank you for the suggestions!

Delle Jacobs said...

Hi Ray and Pat!

I'm a modestly well-known author who makes more than a decent living from ebooks, and I've won quite a number of writing awards.

Your statement about backstory openings reminded me of a recent event in which some authors touted certain "rules" of writing which should never be broken.

Okay, I know those rules and the reasoning behind them, and agree, except for the "never" part. But it also happens that I'm about to publish a book that opens with that dreaded curse, the Prologue. And even though it's a romance, it also opens with two major secondary characters, who nobody, surely, would ever mistake for the hero and heroine (short, fat, red-faced king meets tall, gaunt, straw-haired old hag). And yes, it could be called backstory, in a way.

But I feel I have excellent reasons to break the "rules". I am known for Regency and Medieval romances, and this is my first major book that is strongly paranormal as well. I feel I need to make it very clear to my readers that this book is different--specifically, a paranormal Medieval romance, so I'm setting the scene, establishing it as a paranormal, and showing the bargain which sets the story in motion. Yes, there are other ways to do all this, but this is how I feel it is done best, regardless of the "rules".

I'd like to know your thoughts on this. I can send you the prologue if you want to comment on it- but it's a little over 500 words long. So I won't post it unless you're willing to review it.

ray said...

Delle, I'm not a believer in rules but in what works. If you can write a compelling narrative, it doesn't matter what conventions or expectations you ignore.

I would be happy to give your prologue a look.

I'll offer another alternative: on my blog, Flogging the Quill, I critique (and so do my readers) either the opening page of a first chapter or compare the opening pages of a prologue/chapter 1 combo for effectiveness. Check it out at www.floggingthequyill.com. You can get some good fresh eyes there.

Otherwise, email me at ray@ftqpress.com

Georgina Sellwood said...

Hi Ray and Pat.
I’m having trouble understanding when to use italics for internal dialogue. Are they used only when the thing being said is really important or when no other dialogue tag is present or anytime there is internal dialogue?

This is from my WIP
Bonnie Blakley’s new heels clicked on the sidewalk as she hiked the block and a half to the florist shop from Sterling Oaks Nursing Home. The schedule left by the previous Activity Director planned for a flower arranging class with the residents in the afternoon. David Beil, her new boss said the partners at The Flower Basket would be expecting her to pick up discounted flowers.
Now is my chance for happiness. I have a lot to overcome. This job is my chance at independence. I’m not going to lay awake anymore thinking about things I had no control over.
She wiped at the perspiration already gathered on her forehead. It threatened to run further down her cheeks from the summer heat. Today was her first day as the new Activity Director, she didn’t need her hair frizzing, and her face flushed when she tried to make a good first impression. She stopped on the curb opposite the flower shop on the corner of Third and Orange as a gust of wind picked up tendrils of her long hair whipping them across her face. She battled with the errant strands as she stepped off the sidewalk.
A shrill female voice yelled, “Watch out.”
Thanks Georgina

Cher Green said...

Hi Ray and Pat,

Ray, love your blog. I've only recently been introduced to it, but can't wait to dig deeper into it's contents.

Here's the first part of my wip. Feel free to comment on it.

Melanie Grimes pulled up to the curb of the hospital, trying desperately to calm her nerves. She glanced at her jagged nails and then to her father as the nurse wheeled him out in a chair. She’d steeled herself for what she thought would be her last trip home, a trip to bury her last living relative. Yet Derek Grimes sat ramrod straight, looking ten years younger than his fifty-three.

Without any assistance, Derek stood, towering over the assisting nurse, and settled himself into Melanie’s worn out Honda. His dark hair had grayed and small creases formed webs across his forehead. He reached for Melanie’s hand and squeezed. “I’ve missed you.”

Her steel turned to uncast clay at the sight of her healthy father. Tears formed like a newly discovered geyser.

Her father gently pulled her chin up. “What’s this?”

“Just glad you’re okay. After Mom, I expected you to be gone by the time I got here.”

“Oh, honey. It wasn’t your fault. Her death was unexpected. Besides, we all must leave this world eventually. Your mother’s still here, watching and protecting you.”

A shiver ran down Melanie’s spine at the mention of her mother’s spirit, and she shifted uneasily in her seat. Looking into the rearview mirror, she wiped the wetness from her blue eyes, so like her mother’s.

Keep up the great work at the blog. Hope you enjoy your visit on Pat's blog.

Cher Green

ray said...

Georgina, my practice is to leave internal monologue/dialogue in the same person and tense as the rest of the narrative. It fits in the flow better, IMO.

For example, from your narrative: She wasn't going to lay awake anymore thinking about things she had no control over.

ray said...

Cher, a few quick comments as the comment format isn't good for detail (feel free to submit the chapter to FtQ for a flogging).

1. Adverbs. I'd examine each one that modifies a verb and look for a way to delete it and replace the pair of words with either a stronger verb or other description.

For example: trying desperately to calm her nerves.

Why not: took a deep breath to calm her nerves.

There was an adjective that I didn't think helped: "uncast" clay. I think the metaphor was better without the adjective.

There's tension in the character, but not a lot of tension in what's happening. For me, no compelling story questions were raised. Is there a consequence to her father being healthy instead of near death? Is this a positive or negative for her? I have a feeling that the story starts later.

Cher Green said...

Ray,

Thank you so much for the pointers. I'll stop by your blog and submit the entire chapter.

In answer to the question: yes there are consequences and they are mostly negative, at least from her point of view.

It is possible I start too soon. This novel has been set aside for a little while, while I work on other projects, but it is one novel I do intend to complete and submit.

Thanks again,
Cher

Georgina Sellwood said...

Hi Ray Georgina here again-
I'm still unclear when to use italics and when not to for internal thought.
Thanks
Georgina

Ray said...

Georgina, thanks for asking again--I realize now that my answer was incomplete.

There are no real "rules," but my practice is to avoid italics for internal dialogue altogether. Or quotation marks, or "single" quotes.

Italics are harder to read than normal type, and they break the mood and flow in a subtle way.

So I avoid using italics by putting internal monologue into the third person rather than use the first as you have. The reader will understand that it's part of the character's experience, feelings, and thoughts. At least that's my view. Try it out and see what you think.

Patricia Bates said...

Thanks Ray, for stopping by you've given everyone some great pointers...

I wanted to share my experiences with everyone so I've enclosed the link to my 'flogging' for Master's Mistress - and I can assure you I'll be sending in a chapter for another book soon! See if there's been any real growth between the styles so to speak beyond what I think is there. So without further ado - please take a moment to check out my public flogging!

http://www.floggingthequill.com/flogging_the_quill/2008/02/flogometer-fo-6.html

Patricia Bates said...

Lets see if I can get the link to work this time:

http://www.floggingthequill.com/flogging_the_quill/2008/02/flogometer-fo-6.html