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January 18, 2010

YourBookBiz -- On Being A Good Date

On Being a Good Date

Joseph Conrad once said something about the words getting in the way of what you want to say. It's true. We could all flood a tsunami of verbage around a floating red shoe. The right answer is that we probably shouldn't. Sticking to the spine of the story or the target of your market requires a mean streak. Murdering those "little darlings" of creativity that shine like roses along the roadside takes a firm merciless hand. Your final reading goal in this final stage before we turn the book over to a REAL editor is to take the trimming shears and revisit the hedge for the best cropping you can manage. Have courage.

Kurt Vonnegut, when asked about the secret to great writing, said, "You’ve got to be a good date for the reader." I fretted about that for a while, finally worrying it like a dog with a bone, and began to jot down random thoughts about first meetings, dates, dinners, goodnights, and the ensuing problems that always seem to be working against a happy ending. As you tone and shape your book for the next stage in editing be merciless in shedding flab, sidebar love handles, and keeping the beginning, the middle, and the end as tightly choreographed as a dinner, brandy and a tango.

Here is a bare outline of your task in being a good date for your reader. Feel free to add your own guidelines for success. As a date you must remember:

  • You only have one chance to make a first impression
  •  Choose your words carefully
  • Be confident
  • Ask questions, listen
  • Don't judge
  • Deliver what you promise
  • Go somewhere new
  • Don’t make a big scene over nothing
  • Tell your back story with crisp, simple dialogue
  • Don’t tell too much
  • Don’t tell too little
  • Don’t hold back
  • Don’t hide anything important on purpose
  • Be honest when you can
  • Be funny not cynical
  • Cry only if you must
  • Get over yourself before the soup
  • Don’t try and make your date look stupid
  • Don’t assume you are smarter than your date
  • Leave room on the table for your date’s story
  • Lies always come back to haunt you
  • Tell a secret in a first time way
  • Always offer something sweet towards the end
  • Manners count
  • Smile when you least expect it
  • Defer from having all the answers
  • Pay the bill in full
  • Take your date all the way home
  • Whisper a very personal aside
  • Don’t settle for a handshake
  • Great endings build new beginnings
  • Leave your date intrigued and wanting more
  • Call back

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