Friday, November 27, 2015

Fiction's Fatal Flaws--Interview With Editor Christy Distler

I recently had the opportunity to read a pre-release copy of an excellent book, Five Editors Tackle the Twelve Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing. The title is a long one, but it describes the content very well. And the five editors who wrote the book—a series of short chapters, each one addressing a fatal flaw from a different perspective—are well qualified to present this information. Today I’m interviewing one of those editors, Christy Distler.

RM: Who are the five editors, and what are their qualifications?

CD: Thank you for hosting me, Richard. The five editors are C. S. (Susanne) Lakin, Linda S. Clare, Robin Patchen, Rachel Starr Thomson, and me (Christy Distler).

Susanne is an editor, the owner of the award-winning Live Write Thrive blog, and the author of more than a dozen novels and the writing craft books in the Writer’s Toolbox Series (our book is part of this series).

Linda is an editor, a college creative writing teacher, and the author of two women’s fiction novels and three nonfiction books.

Robin is a freelance editor, as well as a line editor for Redbud Press. She also teaches writing courses and has authored four books.

Rachel is a freelance editor, the author of numerous fiction and nonfiction books, and was a teacher before she transitioned to full-time editing.

I’m a freelance editor, working with individual authors as well as with three publishing houses. I also write contemporary and historical fiction.

RM: Each of you addresses one of the flaws, coming at them from different standpoints. How did you all decide which ones were the twelve most important?

CD: Susanne chose the twelve biggest craft issues she sees as an editor, and then from that list of twelve, we each chose a commonly seen aspect of that flaw.

RM: I think a unique feature of the book is the inclusion of long sections (not just a single paragraph) that demonstrate the errors, and then a revised section showing how to avoid them. How did you all come up with that?

CD: The Before-and-After format actually reflects one of the fatal flaws we cover in the book: “show, don’t tell.” Many people are visual learners, so we wanted to show the flaws (and their fixes) instead of just tell what to do and what not to do. The Befores and Afters provide greater clarity of how the flaws can look in context, making them easier to spot and remedy.

RM: And which “fatal flaw” do you think is the absolute worst in your opinion?

CD: Personally, I would say overwriting. Many writers struggle with overwriting, and for good reason. They see their book’s incredible setting and want to convey it in full to their readers. They want everyone who opens their book to experience the same scenes that unfold in their mind. So they gush it all onto the page—but in doing so, they leave nothing to the reader’s imagination and can end up on tangents that muddle the storyline. That affects just about every facet of the story and often makes for an unsatisfying read. If wordiness (another form of overwriting) also comes into play, the story really suffers. Fortunately, overwriting is fixable once a writer can recognize it for what it is, and we show just how to do that in the book.

Thanks, Christy. The book is Five Editors Tackle the Twelve Fatal Flawsof Fiction Writing. I'm told it's available in both e-book and print form from all booksellers (online and brick-and-mortar),  and I believe every writer should have it on his or her bookshelf—after they’ve read it. 


The five editors are making a copy of their book available to a randomly selected commenter. Leave your comment, and don’t forget to include your email address so we can contact the winner—use this format to foil web crawlers: Dr R L Mabry at yahoo dot com.

Tweet with a single click: "What is the 'fatal flaw' of fiction writing?" Click here to tweet.

32 comments:

  1. I would love to have this book to add to my writing resources. I definitely have trouble with overwriting. Thanks for the giveaway!

    momrain at aol dot com

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    1. Many of us do, Loraine. Fortunately, it's easy to fix in the editing stage (especially if you work with critique partners). Thank you for stopping by!

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  2. This definitely looks like a must have book. Thank you for this article and the chance to win. quiltedchicken61 at gmail dot com

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  3. This book definitely sounds like a winner! I would love to have it in my library. I have a problem with overwriting. I want to recognize and correct it. Thanks for the opportunity to read it! pamelacornes at ymail dot com

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  4. Sounds like the perfect book for me!

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  5. Is it more difficult to break into the YA genre then regular fiction.

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  6. Is it more difficult to break into the YA genre then regular fiction.

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    1. I'm not a YA expert (I write for a late teen/twenty-something/thirtyish age group), but from what I've seen, I don't think so. YA is very popular, and many of its readers are adults, so in that respect YA covers a wider age range. I would say that it all comes down to the story; if the story is stellar, it will find its place.

      Hope this helps, Nancy!

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  7. I can always use advice. dlaughlin46 at gee mail dot com

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  8. From another of the book's authors: thanks for featuring us, Richard! I really enjoyed reading this interview with Christy and agree, overwriting is a killer. On behalf of us all, thanks for your support!

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  9. Thank you so much for your review, Richard! We're so glad you found the book helpful.

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  10. Thanks to all of you who left a comment, and to Christy and the other editors involved in the production of the book for making a copy of it available to a randomly selected commenter.

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    1. And thank you for helping us get the word out, Richard!

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  11. I don't know if the chance to win is still available. If it is, I'd love to have a copy. Even if it's not, I appreciate the heads up about this new book. I love the fact that it shows how to fix things.

    ginger dot solomon at gmail dot com

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  12. Well this is a very useful book! I've gotta get my hands on one! Thank you for telling us about it!

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  13. I just noticed, after reading some comments, that I forgot to include a purchase link. I've corrected that. And I'll pick a winner at the end of this week, so people will have that long to get their name in the mix.

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    1. That's this coming week--got my days all mixed up because of the holiday.

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  14. I really enjoyed reading this. Thank you for sharing.

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  15. What a great giveaway! Thank you for the opportunity.

    mauback55 at gmail dot com

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  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  17. Hi, Christy and Richard. I'm one of those fledgling scribes who needs help with just about every aspect of writing, so I'd love to get my hot little hands on this gem of a book. Thanks for the opportunity to participate in the contest!

    bizzysyb [at] gmail [dot] com

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    1. We all start as fledglings, Sybil, and it's we editors' hope that this book will help writers grow. Glad you stopped by!

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  18. The book sounds like a winner. I'd like to win one!
    consolverp at gmail dot com

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  19. This book sounds like a wonderful resource.

    thejorns at gmail dot com.

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