Terrie Leigh Relf: What types – and forms – of writing do you do? If you’re also an editor, what is your niche?
Larry M. Edwards: My focus as a writer has been nonfiction — I worked as a journalist for 25 years, and I have written three nonfiction books. I also have written some fiction, mostly short stories, but have two novels in progress.
As an editor, I work with nonfiction, especially memoir, as well as general and genre fiction, from historical novels to sci-fi.
Terrie Leigh Relf: What is your area(s) of subject-matter expertise? How did you discover this niche? What intrigues you about it?
Larry M. Edwards: As a journalist, I covered a broad range of subject-matter areas, from recreational boating to high-tech and bio-tech. I also have an interest in history, particularly the American frontier during the early 1800s — Lewis & Clark and the fur trade era.
Terrie Leigh Relf: How do you balance your creative and work time?
Larry M. Edwards: I don’t. I am deadline-driven, thanks to working in journalism for so many years. If I don’t have a pending deadline, I tend to procrastinate until the deadline looms. To motivate myself, I have to create artificial deadlines (easier said than done), or I impose deadlines by submitting my writing to critique groups and contests.
Terrie Leigh Relf: What tips do you have for other writers and/or editors?
Larry M. Edwards: Writing and editing are two different animals. Writers need to write, rewrite, and rewrite again, after getting feedback from others (not family or friends, who will lie so as not hurt your feelings). Writers, in general, cannot edit themselves well (cannot “kill their darlings”), but they still need to do it as much as they are able. Think Anne Lamont’s Bird by Bird (“shitty first draft”) and Mary Karr’s The Art of Memoir (be “carnal”). Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by King and Browne is an indispensible reference.
Join a read-and-critique group with writers who are at your level or higher.
Once you have a manuscript as good as you can make it (NOT a first draft or even a second draft), find an experienced editor who will give critical and constructive feedback.
Writers also need to read good writing: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver; Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury; Roughing It and Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.
Editors need to remember to lift their heads and smell the pine boughs now and again; i.e., look at the big picture and the overarching goal of the work, and not be so focused on the minutiae that they only see typos, inappropriate punctuation and dangling participles.
Terrie Leigh Relf: What are your thoughts on the creative process in general and your creative process in particular?
Larry M. Edwards: Let the “leetle gray cells” (Hercule Poirot) do their job. Creative juices get flowing by breathing life into one’s thoughts, then building on that.
Please, do NOT fall for the myth of “writer’s block.” Writers write — every day. If you have trouble coming up with something, write a word, any word, then another word, then another. It doesn’t have to make sense at that point. Fresh ideas emerge through the very act of writing, and flood gates will reopen. The key is just doing it and not blaming some mythical, imaginary force. Take responsibility for your own destiny as a writer.
Terrie Leigh Relf: Where do your ideas come from?
Larry M. Edwards: Everywhere; the world. I keep my eyes, ears and nostrils open.
Terrie Leigh Relf: Where have you been published? Upcoming publications? Awards and other accolades?
Larry M. Edwards: As a professional journalist, I had thousands of articles published in newspapers and magazines, nationally as well as internationally. I have authored three books, and have had short stories published in magazines. I won Best of Show honors from the San Diego Press Club in 1994, 1997, 2004 and 2005, as well as numerous first-place awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and San Diego Press Club.
Dare I Call It Murder?: A Memoir of Violent Loss won first-place honors in the San Diego Books Awards in 2012 (unpublished manuscript) and 2014 (published book), and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
As an editor, a number of the books I edited have won awards, including Murder Survivor’s Handbook: Real-Life Stories, Tips & Resources, which received a Gold Award in the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Book Awards in 2015. Other books I have edited have received first-place honors in the San Diego Books Awards.
Learn more at: http://www.larryedwards.com/awards.html
Terrie Leigh Relf: What are you working on now?
Larry M. Edwards: As a writer, I am currently working on a bevy of short stories, two novels, and a dramatization of a diary written by an Oregon pioneer in 1837. As an editor, I am working on a nonfiction book about child sexual abuse, and fiction works that include a medical thriller, suspense novel addressing drug smuggling, and a historical novel about the American frontier.
Terrie Leigh Relf: What challenges have you faced as a writer and/or with a particular project? How did you meet them? What did you learn from these challenges and how did they make you a better writer and/or editor?
Larry M. Edwards: In writing Dare I Call It Murder?: A Memoir of Violent Loss, I faced numerous challenges from the literary/publishing establishment, lawyers, family, and personal demons. I found the challenges daunting; it took more than a decade to finish the book and see it published.
However, that lengthy process made me a better writer and editor, thanks to feedback from other writers, literary agents, and acquisition editors at publishing houses. I also learned much about the realities of book publishing and now offer consulting services to writers who are exploring their publishing options.
Terrie Leigh Relf: Are you plotter or a discovery writer?
Larry M. Edwards: When I get excited about new writing project, I dive in and write as fast I can to get all the ideas laid out. That may include scenes as well as a vague description of how I envision the work as a whole. But once that’s done, I come up for air and begin serious plodding . . . er . . . plotting and devise a satisfactory ending to the story (subject to change, of course). I like to know where I’m headed, rather than wandering through the wilderness, hoping for an epiphany.
Terrie Leigh Relf: Are you currently a writing mentor? If so, what are your thoughts on mentoring?
Larry M. Edwards: Yes, I am mentoring/coaching a number of writers. I offer them encouragement as well as specific recommendations for improving the clarity, pace and flow of their work.
I write a blog about writing, editing and publishing as well as conducting workshops, and I have a Resources page on my website.
Writers new to the craft can benefit from the experience and knowledge of someone who has been in the biz for a number of years. There are lots of people out there offering advice, so caveat emptor. Writers looking for an editor, mentor, coach need to do their homework and get references before shelling out any dinero.
Terrie Leigh Relf: Since you’re also a fiction writer, who are your favorite characters? How did they come into being, and what do you love – or loathe – about them?
Larry M. Edwards: My favorite character is Archie McNally, a would-be bon vivant created by Lawrence Sanders for his McNally series of playful mysteries set in Palm Beach, Florida. Archie, who got himself expelled from Yale, does “discrete inquiries” for his father’s law firm and inevitably ends up involved in solving a murder, much to the chagrin of the local homicide detective.
Terrie Leigh Relf: Are you currently, or have you ever, been in a writing group? Your thoughts?
Larry M. Edwards: Yes, I am in a writing group and have been in writing groups for nearly 20 years. Any writer who wishes to excel should be in a read & critique group of good writers. The group does not necessarily need to be one directed by a professional writer, editor or literary agent, but for the neophyte, that may be a good place to begin — to learn the ropes, so to speak. Accepting criticism can be difficult even for the most thick-skinned of us.
The key to finding a good group is, to use a cliché, networking, talking to other writers. One way of achieving this is through professional organizations and writers’ conferences. In the San Diego area, I am involved in a number of organizations, including the San Diego Writers/Editors Guild, Publishers & Writers of San Diego, Ocean Beach Writers Networking Group, Partners in Crime — the San Diego Chapter of Sisters in Crime — San Diego Professional Editors Network (SD/PEN), and the San Diego Book Awards. These all offer opportunities to meet other writers and joining or forming a read & critique group.
Also, I attend writers’ conferences, such as the La Jolla Writers Conference, where I can meet editors, agents, and other writers.
Terrie Leigh Relf: I know our readers would love to hear about your networking, marketing, and promotional experiences—including tips.
Larry M. Edwards: As I said in response to the previous question, I am active in a number of professional organizations. I also have several websites — personal and for individual books — and am active in social media, especially Facebook (multiple pages) and Twitter (two accounts), the two most popular social media platforms. And I have developed a mailing list of people interested in my work.
The key to a successful book launch is having and implementing a good marketing plan. And that begins well before (6 months to 1 year) before the book is released. Too many authors wait until after the book is released to even think about marketing and promotion, let alone doing something about it. In terms of financial success, that is one of the biggest mistakes authors make.
For more on this, including tips on marketing and promotion, go to my Resources page, Book Marketing. I have made a number of my presentations on this topic available as downloadable PDF files.
Terrie Leigh Relf: Your thoughts on having an agent?
Larry M. Edwards: Good idea, if you can get one. The path to traditional publishing is typically through an agent, although there are some small publishers who accept submissions directly from authors (but also pay less and have less marketing clout than the Big Five in New York).
Getting an agent, however, can be as difficult, if not more so, than getting a publishing deal. Agents are the gatekeepers, if you will, to big publishing houses. Acquisition editors rely on them to find new authors. So a writer must first convince an agent that his or her manuscript is worthy of being published. It requires a manuscript that, in the words of one agent, “is better than the best sellers.”
Also keep in mind that the book publishing world works much like Hollywood and TV. No one really knows what will make a financially successful product. They believe they know, but the reality is that their track record is abysmal. So they throw a lot of stuff at the wall and hope something sticks — quantity over quality. Most books do not earn back the money invested in publishing them ($25,000 to $30,000 per book, on average).
Most, if not all, of the publishing decisions are made by the marketing departments. The days of a Maxwell Perkins nurturing the next Hemingway, Fitzgerald or Wolfe are long gone. That means your manuscript needs to be polished to perfection before submitting it. The most important step an author can take is hiring a damned good editor.
But in addition to having a top-notch manuscript, an agent will ask you for your “platform” and marketing plan — in the business of book publishing, it’s all about marketing.
This is especially true for nonfiction, for which you submit a book proposal, not a completed manuscript. The proposal must include a detailed marketing plan (my marketing plan was 8 pages long) and author platform (what makes you an expert qualified to write about your topic) as well as a summary/overview/synopsis (whatever you want to call it), author bio, chapter outline and sample chapters.
And you need a good “elevator pitch”; i.e., a concise description of your book that you can recite in 10-15 seconds—not 10-15 minutes. This pitch is not only used to attract an agent, but as your lead marketing component.
For example, my pitch is: In my book, Dare I Call It Murder?: A Memoir of Violent Loss, I unmask the emotional trauma of violent loss as I ferret out new facts to get at the truth of how and why my parents were killed.
The best places to find potential agents are at writers’ conferences and Publishers’ Marketplace.
Terrie Leigh Relf: Your thoughts on self-publishing?
Larry M. Edwards: Today, self-publishing provides an avenue for writers to get “published,” although the term no longer means what it once did. Self-publishing t is fraught with pitfalls that many naïve authors discover only after they’ve fallen into the trap, and in some case spent a lot of money and got little for it.
Amazon’s CreateSpace offers the most economical path to self-publishing, but it, too, has a number of pitfalls that ought to be avoided. I have blogged about this, and I have two downloadable documents available on my Resources page:
- Book Publishing Checklist & Estimated Costs —workshop handout
- POD (print on demand) Cost Comparison / Pros & Cons — CreateSpace vs. IngramSpark — workshop handout
For more on this, including tips on self-publishing, go to my Resources page, Book Publishing.
Terrie Leigh Relf: Thank you again, Larry, for creating the time for this interview. Be sure to follow all of Larry’s links, read his books, and his bio below.
Award-winning author, editor, journalist; freelance book editor; workshop leader; publishing consultant. Editor of “The Journey: Learning to Live with Violent Death” (2015); editor of “What the Private Saw The Civil War Letters & Diaries of Oney F. Sweet” (2015); editor of the award-winning “Murder Survivor’s Handbook: Real-Life Stories, Tips & Resources” (2014). Author of the award-winning best-seller “Dare I Call It Murder?: A Memoir of Violent Loss” (2013), as well as “Official Netscape Internet Business Starter Kit” (1998) and “Food & Provisions of the Mountain Man” (2003). Thousands of newspaper and magazine articles published since 1983. Winner of San Diego Books Awards (2012, 2014), and won Best of Show honors from the San Diego Press Club in 1994, 1997, 2004 and 2005, as well as numerous first-place awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and San Diego Press Club. Judge for San Diego Book Awards since 2005. Current projects include editing novels and nonfiction manuscripts, and helping authors get their books published. When he finds the time, he works on a historical novel (untitled) of the American frontier, as well as a number of short stories in various stages of completion. Outside of writing and editing, Edwards plays the fiddle in several old-time music and bluegrass bands.
- Larry Edwards, Polishing Your Prose: http://www.larryedwards.com/
- Dare I Call It Murder?: http://www.dareicallitmurder.com/
- What the Private Saw: The Civil War Letters and Diaries of Oney Foster Sweet: http://whattheprivatesaw.com/
- Wigeon Publishing: http://wigeonpublishing.com/
- Polishing Your Prose blog: https://polishingyourprose.wordpress.com/
- Larry Edwards: https://www.facebook.com/FiddlinFriar
- Polishing Your Prose: https://www.facebook.com/PolishingYourProse/
- Dare I Call It Murder?: A Memoir of Violent Loss: https://www.facebook.com/LarryEdwardsBook
- What the Private Saw: https://www.facebook.com/WhatThePrivateSaw/
- Murder Survivor’s Handbook: https://www.facebook.com/homicidesurvivorshandbook/
The Journey: https://www.facebook.com/TheJourneyofLivingWithViolentDeath/
- Heritage: https://www.facebook.com/Heritage-104024763038772/
- Corps of Rediscovery: https://www.facebook.com/Corps-of-Rediscovery-263524697024394/
- @LarryEdwards: https://twitter.com/LarryEdwards
- What the Private Saw @OneyFSweet: https://twitter.com/OneyFSweet
- Fiddlin’ Friar: https://plus.google.com/u/0/101097836287649856890
- Larry Edwards, Book Author and Editor: https://www.linkedin.com/in/larrymedwards
- Larry Edwards : https://www.pinterest.com/larry3331/