Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Andy Meisenheimer (Advice for Novelists, Part 23)

Today we hear Zondervan editor Andy Meisenheimer's response to the question I've posted to 20+ editors, agents, authors and publicists (so far!).

"If you could say one thing to aspiring novelists, what would you say?"

Take it away, Andy!

It's tough to come up with one thing without cheating. (Yes, I'm looking at you, Steve Laube and Andy McGuire.) And tough to come up with something that hasn't already been said.

But I do have one thing that I think is very important when it comes to the lifestyle of being an aspiring novelist. Communication is cheap, and as a result, there's plenty of recycled wisdom and free praise to be had, especially online. Disconnect from the web and spend your time at your local library. Read and savor the brilliant writers of the past fifty years. Study classic writing instruction from authors who are experienced and knowledgeable (my standbys are Orson Scott Card on characters and viewpoint and Obstfeld's book on crafting scenes). Watch great TV and film. Writing (and storytelling) is an art form, like painting, dancing, playing the piano. Before a pianist makes a public performance, there's usually a decade or so of private lessons and intense personal study of history, heroes, technique. Very few are brilliant enough to sit down one day and play Rachmaninoff, or in our case, write well.

My mom would call this "always having your nose stuck in a book". And that's my advice.

--Andy Meisenheimer, Acquisitions Editor, Zondervan. Visit Andy online at his blog here.


Nicole said...

I would agree with the reading of classics and to always be reading when not writing, but I find it interesting when today's professionals, particularly editors, mention the classics since many of those novels wouldn't make it through the pub boards today.

Merrie Destefano said...

Great advice, Andy! And none of it was recycled from either Steve or Andy M.


I've felt for a long time that writing is a performance art, like dance or music. And I agree, every time I "indulge" myself by reading a great book or watching a well-crafted movie, I am studying the art form by immersion.

Love Orson Scott Card's book on characters, by the way.

michael snyder said...

I agree...ideally, I like to think I'd read twice as much as I write. Unfortunately, things are not always ideal. But it's a great goal to shoot for. Good advice, Andy.

(Of course, you failed to mention how having dozens of named bit-part characters and using clever nicknames for work-related projects can really set a manuscript apart!)

Sue Dent said...

I agree. Good advice for authors submitting to the general market.