Chauncey Mabe served as book review editor at the Sun-Sentinel newspaper in Fort Lauderdale for 23 years. Since leaving daily journalism in 2009, Mabe has worked as a freelance journalist, ghostwriter, and book doctor. (More about Chauncey at The Jury.)
What do you look for in a great story?
First I look for writing quality, will come clear in my answers to the following questions. Then narrative, by which I mean story. Then character. Then authorial sensibility. Then style. Almost no one, even the greats, scores on every point.
What will you focus on when looking for hidden treasures in the America's Next Author contest?
Narrative fluency -- the ability to write effective sentences that click together and flow forward. Clarity and economy of language. An absence of hackneyed tropes, plot developments, or language, even in genre stories. A grasp of human psychology displayed in the development of characters. Fictional imagination. An absence of obvious influences.
How important do you think promotion is for an author nowadays?
Sadly, promotion is almost more important than writing itself. I'm sure God is very cross about this.
How can authors best take advantage of social media?
By investigating the primary social media outlets to figure out which ones will offer the best chance to reach people who read the kind of novel you want to write.
What is the most common mistake made by independent authors?
Viewing social media as only a sales tool. You need a presence before you have a new book to market.
What are your favorite genres and authors right now?
I'm mostly a reader of literary fiction, but I read all genres except for romance. Real literary quality can sometimes be found in crime fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, thrillers.
What are some of your guilty reading pleasures?
Reading is never guilty, only pleasure.
Which book is on your nightstand at the moment?
Robert Olen Butler's "The Hot Country," a first foray into thriller writing by a Pulitzer Prize-winning literary novelist, and "I Love a Broad Margin to Life," a book-length poem mixing fiction, memoir, and essay, by Maxine Hong Kingston.
Why are author photographs often ridiculously outdated?
Because authors have gigantic egos and cannot believe they age like ordinary people.
Do you have any writing-related pet peeves?
Bad, lazy, cliched, or derivative writing. Literary fiction that ignores plot, genre fiction that ignores character. Too many modifiers. Wandering point of view.
In your experience, what is the single most important factor in achieving writing success?
Doing the writing, first and foremost, and worrying about everything else later.
Do you have any closing advice for people struggling to get published?
Try everything -- but don't forget to do the writing. And unless you write fast naturally, do not rush your process in a vain attempt to keep up with the pace of today's digital media. Better one good book every three years than a mediocre one every year.