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DELAMAR WEB
Reviews: Books about Writing
Book Reviews:
   Conventional Book Reviews   (standard commentary/review of book) 
  Knothole Book Reviews   (a "knothole review" is "not whole"-- 
       the concept is to give insights into an author's style, craft, and knowledge through selected excerpts.) 
 Don’t Sabotage Your Submission: 
Save Your Manuscript from Turning Up D.O.A. 
Chris Roerden
Rock Hill, SC: BellaRosaBooks, 2008

 Don’t Sabotage Your Submission is a truly down-to-earth book about the nuances of writing and marketing your writing. It has a friendly tone that creates the feeling that the reader is sitting in a classroom with a warm and knowledgeable teacher. She shares not only her own expertise of forty-four years as an editor, but also pertinent comments from other writers.

Roerden cautions the writer against openings that have become cliche today: back story, description dumps, odd fits and starts, cliches, pile-ups of adjectives and adverbs, and hokey tricks. She suggests evaluating your work by examining each character, scene, setting,  action, image, description, detail, and word to see that it serves its purpose. A list of almost fifty aspects—among them embedding first references, furnishing visual interest, establishing attitude, providing texture, creating counterpoint and constructing parallel actions—points the writer to assessing first drafts. 

The section on cliches doesn’t dwell on the standard list of cliches—just warns against them—and goes on to give some tips. “In a majority of manuscripts, the protagonist is always waiting for minutes that seem like an hour, or for hours that seem like an eternity. One character is sure to be described as having hooded eyes. At least once per book. a frown creases someone’s brow.”  There are also examples of how cliches can be used effectively, as in dialogue to characterize, intentional triteness, or self-parody. Roerden also warns the writer against cliché plots, writing “. . . to round out this topic, I can’t resist exposing a few overused situations. ‘The butler did it’ may not apply to your plot, either because your fiction has no butler or because you recognize the jokes about this much-maligned domestic servant. However, writers often base their plots on overdone, stereotyped situations.” 

The section on dialogue covers a broad range, with comments on dialogue in the conflict of relationships, sowing dissension, asymmetrical dialogue, interior dialogue, informational dialogue, and pacing dialogue,.
The comments on dialect are to the point, commenting on how too many writers try to establish dialect simply by dropping the i-n-g at the ends of words and replacing it with an apostrophe. “Beware of presenting too many idiosyncrasies at a time, making them too noticeable, or repeating them too often.” Ungram-
matical language can also characterize. “For your own characters, your comfort level might lie somewhere
between the rare a-yelling and might coulds, and the more vigorous arthuritis and I swanee. Whichever style works for you, representing believable voices takes astute listening, judicious selecting, and restrained writing. And of course, scrupulous editing.”

The book also contains sections about hooks, flashbacks, gestures, and the author’s voice. Among the caveats of submissions to editors is a warning to the writer about the importance of self-editing. In a section titled Words and Misdemeanors Roerden writes “But first readers [in the publishing house] recognize the clues. Even the less-experienced know that confusion-causing ineffective writing is habit-forming, and that early evidence means more of the same lies ahead. So busy screener-outers watch for the earliest reason to lower their piles of never-ending submissions.”

This review barely touches on the many issues addressed in the book—to do so would mean listing the entire 
Table of Contents. This is a book that doesn’t try to be erudite, and in the process is. It’s heavily-loaded with helpful comments—a useful resource for both beginning and experienced writers. #

--reviewed by Gloria T. Delamar
Some Writers Quoted in Roerden’s  Book

 “In my opinion, ‘voice’ is the most important ingredient  in a successful book. The plot may be clever, but if the voice doesn’t engage us, how can we care?”  —Margaret Maron

“Rewriting is the whole secret to writing.”  —Mario Puzo

“Anyone who is satisfied with first-draft writing is either extraordinarily talented or has low standards.”  —Arnold Melnick

“Pick the right essential details to show readers how to complete the non-essential details in their minds that you don’t need 
to tell."    —Bruce Holland Rogers

“The overuse of metaphors tell me a writer can’t get his or her thought out. I keep wanting to say ‘okay, I got it the first time.’”  —Elaine Flinn

“In composing, as a general rule, run your pen through every other word you have written; you have no idea what vigor it will give your style.”    —Sydney Smith

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