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Wednesday, 5 December 2012


Hy Conrad 

Every writer is different.  But, if I may be allowed, I’m a little “differenter”.  That’s not to say better.  I’m just warning you, my advice may be of no help.

You’re welcome.

Throughout my career, my work has been divided into two distinct groups; TV (writing for Monk and White Collar) and books, each with its own demons.  And though my ideas about editing may not apply to anyone else, there may be a kernel in here – something you haven’t heard before.  Let’s start with TV.

In television, everyone gives you notes.  I mean everyone, from the star to the network head to the lady in wardrobe.  It’s also a rule that every note has to be addressed, not necessarily followed, but addressed.  This is infuriating but instructive.  It gives you a chance to think about your choices and defend them – or change them.

My biggest insight into TV editing is that stupid notes can be worthwhile.  For example, I once got a note saying a script was too funny.  My first reaction was, “Hey, stupid!  It’s a comedy.”

Enter the cafe (VBT)
But when I read it again, I figured out what she meant.  As you got halfway through my script, the comedy started becoming less and less grounded.  So I inserted a quiet moment, where all of the characters reassessed their situation.  Not a joke in the scene.  But it added a sense of normalcy and made the funny parts funnier.

So just because a note sounds ridiculous doesn’t mean it’s unfounded.  Just figure out what it means.

In writing books, I’m a proponent of self-editing.  That’s mainly because I have an over-developed sense of structure and can usually tell when the story is going off the rails.  When my editors do take over, it’s usually to work on the small things, some insights into character perhaps, or to tell me to put the quotation mark after the period, even if it doesn’t look “right.”  (Does that look right to you?  Well, it doesn’t to me.)

Once a month during the writing process, I’ll set aside a day and review the book so far.  I also hang a big note above my computer asking, “Why is this important?  Why should I care?”  (I don’t really; but you get the drift.)

There are a hundred good reasons to include tangential material – to set the mood, to delineate character, to give revealing details.  There are also a hundred bad reasons – to over-explain a plot point, to make yourself sound smart, to repeat yourself because you’re not sure the reader was paying attention.

The suspense novelist Elmore Leonard has a rule for writing.  “Leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.”  As I do my monthly review of the manuscript, I try to keep that in mind.  It usually helps me cut thousands of words.

My final note on editing is, “Don’t show your work to everyone.”  Be selective.  If you’re not, everyone will want to help out and you’ll get caught in a morass of conflicting, amateurish advice.  Trust yourself and maybe a loved one.  And your agent.  And a good, professional editor.

Things Your Dog Doesn't Want You to Know

Why do dogs eat furniture when there are endless chew toys nearby? Why do they always dash to a rug when they have to throw up? And why are they always absolutely starving?

Things Your Dog Doesn’t Want You to Know answers the questions that dog owners have asked for centuries. The book is a collection of 115 humorous essays that reveal the truth behind some of the most baffling canine behavior, their hopes and dreams, their grudges and pleasures, and what they really think about us humans.  Peppered with lively, clever stories and visually appealing photographs, Things Your Dog Doesn’t Want You to Know is a verbal and visual delight that is laugh-out-loud funny.

If you have dogs, love dogs, or have ever been baffled by a dog, this book is a must-have.

Topics include:
  • My Life in Your Purse by Tinkerbell, the Chihuahua
  • Waiting by the Table (for food scraps, of course!) by Orson, the bulldog
  • The Bed Rules (Rule #1—It’s my bed) by Dimples, the boxer
  • The Reason I Ate the Sofa (leather tastes a lot like rawhide) by Axelrod, the yellow lab
  • I Can Poop the Second I Start My Walk (but choose not to) by Sophie, the cocker spaniel

Things Your Dog Doesn’t Want You to Know is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indigo, Target, on e-books and at independent bookstores everywhere.  For more information, go to www.ThingsYourDog.com where you can also ask questions about your own dog’s behavior and learn the secrets they have been keeping from you!

“A whimsical delight for dog lovers everywhere, this book will charm and remind readers why they fell in love with Rover to begin with.” (Publishers Weekly Starred Review)

 “I laughed, my dog howled.” (Steve Martin)

This is the perfect book for anyone who owns a dog, has ever owned one, or knows what a dog is. These guys made me laugh out loud—and captured my heart at the same time. The book is simply irresistible.” (Tony Shalhoub, star of the TV series Monk)

Author Hy Conrad
Best known for his work in mysteries, Hy Conrad was one of the original writers for the ground breaking series, Monk, working on the show for all eight seasons, the final two as Co-Executive Producer. In a related project, Hy was Executive Producer and head writer of Little Monk, a series of short films featuring Adrian Monk as a ten-year-old.  His latest TV work was as writer and Consulting Producer for White Collar.

Hy is also the author of hundreds of short stories and ten books of short whodunits, which have been sold around the world in fourteen languages.  Hy’s first mystery novel series, Abel Adventures, will debut in 2012 with the publication of Rally ‘Round the Corpse.  And his first full-length comedy/mystery play, Home Exchange, premiered at the Waterfront Playhouse in May 2012.  He lives in Key West with his partner and two miniature schnauzers. (www.hyconrad.com)

Hy with co-author Jeff Johnson

Jeff Johnson spent most of his working life in advertising agencies, currently as General Manager of Cramer-Krasselt in New York City.  He is the author of The Hourglass Solution:  A Boomer’s Guide to the Rest of Your Life and co-authors (with Paula Forman) a national online advice column called Short Answers, which also appears in newspapers all along the east coast (from Massachusetts to Florida).  Jeff lives in Vermont and Key West and is on the Board of Directors of the Waterfront Playhouse and the Florida Keys SPCA.

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