Thursday, March 06, 2008

A Question of Style


The topic of using italics came up in my writer's group last meeting. Specifically, we were discussing the merits of using italics to indicate the thoughts of the character. A typical passage:

"Peter turned to face the monster. Unbelievable, that thing has enormous fangs! He gulped and picked up his sword."

Some writers, such as Terry Pratchett, use this method selectively and with some success, while others, such as David Payne, use it extensively and not with great success.

I started to use italics as thoughts in writing, but after I read Payne's Back to Wando Passo, his excessive use of italics felt cumbersome and I never bothered to finish the story. It even encouraged me to go back and rewrite my novel to remove the italics.

I have noticed that the usage of italics for thoughts is slowly becoming more common in fiction, which leads me to ask this question: how do agents/editors view italics as thoughts? Is it discouraged, encouraged, or do different people have different views?

This is really more of a stylistic question than a publishing question, but as a writer myself currently entrenched in editing my second novel for publication, I'd be happy to give my opinion.

As writers practice their craft, they experiment with different techniques with language. Most people who write constantly experience fads, where they like a concept (such as using a lot of italics to indicate inner thought) and use it to the point of overusing it, at which point they might realize what they're doing and stop. This usually comes from some recent external influence. From ages 13 to about 15 I was really into ...s everywhere to indicate the pacing of the sentences because I was reading a lot of fanfic writers who were doing it. It was an embarassing phase for me, but I learned from my mistakes. Also, not all of my experiments have been mistakes. Some legitimately entered my style as a common technique.

If you find something new and you like it, have fun with it, but be aware that you shouldn't overuse it, especially if it's grammatically incorrect.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Waiting and Choosing Agents

Dear Rejecter,

While new to the "The Rejecter" as such, I thought I was familiar with rejection until I received a request for a full from a repudiable NY agency last July and have yet to hear a word. Could that be considered a rejection by omission rather than rejection by commission? What's the protocal regarding an e-mail to the agency and asking "What's up?"

Three months is the average wait for a partial or full. A good way to put it is, "I just wanted to contact you and make sure the manuscript was safely received." That's a good way of not stepping on any toes.

Dear Rejecter,

Let's say that you finally get that phone call from an agent offering representation. Are there any questions that you think writers should ask before making their decision to work with that agent? Is there any way to tell if that agent is the right fit for you?

It's very difficult. A good thing to do is ask them questions about where they would submit your novel and what they could do for its publicity. Try to get a feel for how excited they are about it and how committed they would be to the project.

If you have multiple books in multiple genres, try to get an agent who works in all of those genres. That's what I did when I was selecting between agents, and now my agent is helping me revise my second novel, which is sci-fi, for publication.