Thursday, May 14, 2015

query question: should I include a link to a key moment in the book in the query?

I have an upmarket women's fiction 84,000 word polished manuscript. I had my book read by a retired senior writer for Rolling Stones who lives here in the bay area. He said the book is a go. Freshman Melanie is romantically fixated on her straight best friend.  The crisis moment of this book  was published in (Title) magazine in the fall of 2012. Here is my question: Is it TERRIBLE QUERY ETIQUETTE to include the link to this story?

Don't include a link to anything you think I should read in a query. The chances that I'll click on a link in a query are slim to none.

If you link to anything in your query, it's your website, and that is underneath your signature, at the bottom of your query, before your pages.

I will go to a website sometimes, particularly if you've been coy about who published your last books (too often such coyness means you've self-published.)

In addition, the crisis moment isn't something you'll even mention in a query. A query is intended to entice the reader to read the pages, and those pages to make the reader want more pages. It's NOT a synopsis of the book. 

If you have any doubts about what to include, there are 250+ examples now at QueryShark

And I'm really not sure why you'd trust the opinion of a writer for Rolling Stone (not Stones, that's the rock band) about an upmarket women's fiction novel, unless that's what she writes when she's not doing long form non-fiction for Rolling Stone.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Out of this question another looms in my mind. Is it ever wise to even mention you had your manuscript professionally edited. If it's a plus, doesn't that leave us woodland creatures with less nuts, at a distinct disadvantage?

Sam Hawke said...

Carolynn - I've heard agents say they don't want to hear it, don't care in the slightest. Let them think the perfectly polished MS is all your doing.

But maybe others have heard the opposite?

Also, it doesn't have to be a disadvantage to have less nuts. If we don't have the nuts to spend on professional editing that just means we have to work on the skills to do a great editing job on our own work. Sure, it might take longer, but it'll pay off in our work in the future. :)

Lisa Bodenheim said...

2Ns: why are you worried about less nuts (whoo boy, the innuendos here!) Am I remembering rightly--that you are/were a regular contributing paid writer for a column? So I'd say you have some pretty serious writing chops.

My question is: If this writer has their crisis moment printed in a magazine, does that influence an agent's decision of whether or not to take on this manuscript? Won't the writer need to let the agent know about copyrights for that piece of the writing?

Julie said...

Doesn't this fall under the "don't leave me with any work to do but want to read your manuscript" clause? I understand it's a link to the manuscript, but it's another step with arguably a questionable agenda that leaves an irritating taste (I'm better than Jane Average Querier But Not Necessarily Because I Write Better) in the mouth. Not that I mean to imply the OP is irritating - but that's my point: you DON'T want to come across that way.

My two cents.

Guten Morgen!


LynnRodz said...

I agree with Sam. Besides, after you sign with an agent, it's not the end of the story. You're going to be asked to edit and revise. Do you plan on spilling out more nuts? I say keep the nuts and learn how to do the work yourself.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Somebody would trust what a writer for Rolling Stone, or Reader's Digest, or Women's Day or the sadly now defunct Weekly World News because those writers are paid writers in some kind of business, anyway, even if it isn't the exact flavor of word smithery the Original Questioner may engage in. Attention from anybody who's had any success in anything construable as professional writing has just that much weight in a woodland creature's psyche.

But you already knew that.

We all did.

But the issue with fell writers of the same flavor of word smithery is the jealousy, and the perceived competition. Measuring one's upmarket women's fiction novel against somebody else's Rolling Stone article on that guy in Ohio whose animals got loose is "safe" (and actually, that was a really well written article).

I'm not saying this is right, obviously. We're grownups, we should be able to interact with peers. But sometimes there's that dark night of the soul where rejections are everywhere and nothing is good enough where you normally look, and that bit of any source faint praise is a lifeline.

Susan Bonifant said...

With only one chance to make an impression - and one that is based on story only - I think it's better to unpack anything in the query that might only clutter things.

Also, I thought it was against the law to say "fiction novel."

Colin Smith said...

I've said it before, and probably here, but I can't remember so maybe you don't remember either so it doesn't matter if I repeat myself, right? :) What was it I was going to say? Oh yes!

When I write a query, I imagine the worst-case scenario for the agent reading the query. She's running late, hailing a cab with her hair still wet, hobbling into her shoes. She flops into the back of the cab. Stress levels are high, and, knowing she has a day full of meetings and contract negotiations, she takes out her phone to catch up on some queries to help take her mind off the life-and-death battle that is riding a cab in New York City.

Do you really think she's going to be clicking links? No. The good queries are the ones that aren't dismissed after the first line. She's looking for something to make her smile, something to get excited about and make her forget the bumper-to-bumper action around her, and the conference call she's late for.

Speaking of which, I have an all-day meeting to get to. But I try to aim my query for THAT agent.

Donnaeve said...

Colin, would that agent's name happen to be Bridget Jones? That's the character I thought of when you described the agent you write your query for. :)

I do see how having a ms read by a previous writer for a prestigious, well known magazine would make a little woodland creature "squee" with excitement, and want everyone to know that said person gave it a thumbs up. The oddity to it is why even mention this when the question has nothing to do with that, except to perhaps point out that it must really be ready.

As we've read right here ad nauseum in the QOTKU's advice to woodland creatures, the enticement for an agent to read more pages should come from the query alone. A writer shouldn't rely on getting an agent's attention with anything other than their story, vs proving it has merit due to acceptance for partial publication in "X" magazine.

See? Woodland creatures are capable of learning. Even this one.

Dena Pawling said...

I think I would be tempted to include “an excerpt of this manuscript was included in (Title) Magazine” to show that someone has already read and liked at least a portion of the manuscript. Sort of like writing “this manuscript was a finalist in X contest.” But then I'd be concerned an agent wouldn't want to rep it because there might be some rights issues with a portion already having been published.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Colin I love, love, love this.

"Do you really think she's going to be clicking links? No. The good queries are the ones that aren't dismissed after the first line. She's looking for something to make her smile, something to get excited about and make her forget the bumper-to-bumper action around her, and the conference call she's late for."

You better be careful my friend or you might be called out of exile. I hear there are parts of Carkoon that are positively scrumptious.

DeadSpiderEye said...

Pointing out what someone has to say, as a way of endorsement, is aright when addressing Joe Soap but it's probably gonna be interpreted as egging the pudding in a professional context. Even though I think we're aware of that, you don't ask: "Is this really bad..." unless you have a clue it is, it was interesting to see insider perspective presented.

Julie said...

I agree with Colin, who, btw, I have to say, has morphed in my mind from some deranged Doonesbury character to a gerbil on cocaine.

Just sayin'.

Or at least in need of daily Ritalin.

You know I love you, dude.

That having been said, although I really don't think Bridget Jones' Agent is going to be clicking links, I also don't think s/he'd be mighty pleased to hear about said article after the fact, so I also agree with...

@Dena! (Insert cheering Kermit here.) In fact, I think said Agent would be highly peeved to discover this after the fact. So I think it ought to be mentioned - sans link. At the end. Safely tucked in in the "By the way, this is where I let you down by telling you that it's already been published" section.

Here, Colin.

Have a Ritalin-laced Gerbil Cookie.

Does Captcha have those?

Anonymous said...

I would think a story published in a known magazine could be mentioned in the bio. You might even mention that a story 'based on' this novel was published in Title Magazine in 2012. But it would be a publishing credit - that is, it's about the author and not the novel, so it would be in the bio part of your query.

Carolynn: I'm with Sam: most agents don't care if your novel has been professionally edited. They care if the story is terrific and they can market it. You can tell them it's been professionally edited when you they call to discuss representation.

Jennifer: Reader's Digest is primarily a reprint market. They rarely print things that haven't been published elsewhere. They have very few staff writers - I'm not even sure they have any on staff. Just editors. (Sorry. Had to say this. I've heard so many wannabe writers say they want to write for RD. However, the only thing unpublished, inexperienced writers can sell to RD is their jokes/little stories/basic fillers/contest entries.)

Susan: 'fiction novel' is bad, because all novels are fiction. However, when the genre includes the word 'fiction', then it's okay. 'Women's fiction' is a genre, just as 'science fiction' is. A 'women's fiction novel' is a novel in the genre of women's fiction.

Captcha believes me that I'm not a robot. I wonder if it realizes that I'm not awake, either...

Beth H. said...

I had the same thought as Dena. Mentioning that a portion of the novel was published in a magazine seems like important information to include in the last paragraph of the query. At that point, the agent could find it for themselves, no link required.

This was my first pictorial CAPTCHA. In this case, cat-cha! Spend a moment looking at kittens? Yes, please!

Unknown said...

Colin, LMAO at your target agent. Yikes.

Dena, agree 100%, but maybe also include somewhere that you have retained any further publication rights?

Janet, all my life and I never noticed the difference between The Rolling Stones and Roling Stone magazine. Learn something new every day!

Anonymous said...


Paid writer for a magazine means he should know the mechanics of line editing. It doesn't guarantee much else regarding fiction.

Were it me, I would simply mention the magazine as a publication credential if it warrants.

In other news, I have officially retired from taking writing classes as of today. Never again.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Lisa, yes I am a paid columnist. While I may have some, as you say, "writing chops", non-fiction, (with a journalistic bent), is very different from fiction.
All my by-line experience tells an agent is that I can make deadline in the confines of a specific word count.
Comparing what I send my editor, (which, at the time, I consider the best I can make it), with what eventually makes it to print, is an eye opener regarding ability. They ALMOST always make it better.
I am fiction neophyte with all the scurrying doubts of any woodland creature.

Anonymous said...

I just read a recent blog post by Chuck Wendig, that describes woodland creature-dom completely, and gives some great advice.

Here's the description, in all its NSFW glory:

"Everybody — not just writers — is afforded a Basket of Only So Many Fucks at the start of each day. And we spend those Fucks on whatever we can or must. It’s comforting and occasionally badassedly energizing to say, I’m all out of fucks to give, but for writers, that’s not really an option. You gotta give a fuck about this whole thing. You can’t just hit the bottom of the basket. But at the same time, some writers give too many fucks. They blow them all like a cokehead gambler at the Vegas roulette table: “PUT IT ALL ON RED 42,” and the lady is like, “The table only goes up to 38,” and the gambler’s like “SHUT UP AND TAKE ALL OF MY FUCKS.” A writer who spends it all like that puts too much pressure on herself, makes it too important, too heavy a burden, and then the risk can be paralyzing."

And here's the blog post with the great advice:

Dear writers: none of us know what the fuck we're doing

Susan Bonifant said...

bjmuntain: perfect.

Julie M. Weathers: spill

Anonymous said...

Maybe NSFW needs to be in the glossary.

NSFW = Not Suitable For Work
(generally meaning there's obscenity of some sort)

I just assume everyone knows it, but it is a part of an internet culture not everyone has chosen to follow.

Donnaeve said...

BJ, I read that post by Wendig too. I would have never likened it to woodland creature behavior only b/c I thought the only bad word in our repertoire was about "sentient naughty bits."

I see I was wrong.

Back to the point of using a piece of the story as writing cred in query. IDK. A hamster in my brain suddenly took over and this churn began:

1) would an agent really care about that if they'd read most of the query and still didn't care for the story?

2) If they sort a liked it, would it make them think, oh what the hell, ask for a partial?

3) Is this publication the only writing credential they have?

4) If so, wouldn't that seem like hey, they liked it so *you will too! (*Note, this has not made a hill of beans difference for me in the past)

And then I went on and read Julie's comment about "no more writing classes as of today," and the hamster came to a grinding halt.

So yes, Julie, as Susan said - do spill.

I've had ice cream AND cake today.

S.P. Bowers said...

Julie, what happened????

Anonymous said...

Wow I'm late to the game today...

Colin - I love the reference and the target market remarks. That's a really smart way to think of it! Don't give them a reason to put your query (or your book for that matter) down... Your job is to distract them from their life and keep them trapped in your world. :)

BJ - Great link! Great post! Bravo for sharing!

2NN's - Don't sell yourself short. You're a part of a world that many of us don't understand and it definitely gives you credibility and an edge! The rest of us are sitting here holding a knife with notes from an editor saying "you want me to do WHAT with my book?!?!"

Having experience in a deadline driven writing environment is very valuable. As is getting paid for work. I can't speak for everyone, but I'm certainly impressed. :)

To the original post - My thought is because the publication doesn't specialize in womens fiction, I wouldn't include it as anything other than a brief bio-line if that. The fact is, an agent who rep's womens fiction probably won't value the line. And I really believe that your writing, which was good enough to get the publication credit, will be the reason you get an agent.

Because it could backfire too. Agent Buttonweezer-Jones could end up seeing the pub credit and be an avid reader of said stones, and their expectations could blow through the stratosphere into a place where even Zeus looks like a worthless lightning hurler. An agent could find themselves wondering "Wait... this got published in Carkoon Digest? I thought they had standards!" Whereas without the expectation they could have liked it.

Coming into the query pile is a great way to go. There's a low expectation but high-hopes. Messing with that bar might produce negative results, especially when it's tougher to quantify the connection between the pub credit and the genre.

That's my 2 cents.

Captain B.S.

Anonymous said...

Just frustrated. People trying to be helpful with my opening lines, which are apparently terribly confusing. Adding a lot of words doesn't help.

If 33 words are this confusing, I dread thinking what the other 151,720 would do.

It's officially after noon, thus it's not too early for the Shiner Bock.

REJourneys said...

bjmuntain, where were you with the definition of NSFW on Tuesday. People use the label and tag, and after a few confusing clicks, I got the gist of "don't look at it in public," but I still didn't know what the acronym stood for. Knowing the kind of things that get tagged like that, I was afraid to look the acronym up.


And Julie, I'm sorry for the frustration.

Anonymous said...

Julie: the opening few lines are the hardest. They've got a lot to do: they need to pull the reader into your world so that they know where they are (setting) and who they are (POV character). And they need to get the reader invested in that POV character, so they want to keep reading.

The other 151,720 build on those first lines. Once you've got a good foundation to start on, the rest of the words will usually be fine. So don't think about them for now. Just think about the opening.

And, if more than one person finds the opening confusing, then maybe look at those lines.

You don't have to take anyone else's suggestions on how to fix them. All you need to do is pick out what they don't understand, and fix those first sentences to clarify your meaning and set the reader in place and character.

I know that input can be very useful, but I also know that LOTS of input can get that hamster wheel spinning so fast a person can't see the words on the page.

Deep breath. Do some puzzles for awhile, just to clear your head. Then look at the sentences again.

Because you know what? You KNOW you're a good writer. All those wonderful stories you tell us prove that you can make a reader identify with a character in only a few lines. You can do this.

Donnaeve: I don't want to know what is meant by 'sentient naughty bits'. Chuck's language is hard enough on my tender sensibilities.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, REJourneys. I just now realized it was an acronym. Maybe Ms. Shark will add this to the glossary.

Anonymous said...


The thing is the opening has already been workshopped to death. Seriously.

This is the result of the workshops, and agents', and editors' suggestions and now it's confusing.

Donnaeve said...

Julie, my husband loves Shiner Bock. And, I think first sentences are sometimes as hard as the rest of the entire book.

To my other comment re: hamster worries, the other point I wanted to make is, is the magazine well known or obscure? I would think that might matter too, as to whether it's worth a mention. Woodland worriers that we are, I can understand looking for the extra oomph. I think with all the other comments/advice, the questioner will have to decide if it's query worthy as a writing credential.

Julie said...

Julie: Here's a thought - when you're really annoyed with people looking at your babies (and by this I don't mean literal babies, who just pop out by genetic lottery, whereas manuscripts are the result of actual creative effort), consider this: one could always offer to give them the words in alphabetical order. I offered to do this for (?TO?) my beta when she face palmed me after I told her I finished the fourth book (she was on the second). :)

It's akin to counting in alphabetical order.

I wondered for a while how messed up my (actual) babies would be if I taught them to count that way...

Eight... Eighteen... Eighty... No, wait, Eight Hundred... Eight Hundred Eight... Eight Hundred Eighteen... Eight Hundred Eighty... Eight Hundred Eighty Eight...



And if you just want to go to ten,

Eight, Five, Four, Nine, One, Seven, Six, Ten, Three, Two.

You see? With a bit of creativity, you can irritate even the most irritating of people, and screw up even the most intelligent of people. :) And thinking about it can lighten up even the cloudiest of days. "How can I throw off this annoying person and confuse the heck out of them?"

My mom used to say to people who worked in stores, "That'd be cheap at half the price!" And she'd say it in a really cheery voice that implied, "Wow, you're really giving me such a deal!"

And the retailer would invariably smile and nod as if complimented, and then, after a few seconds, be like, "Wait..." And by then, mom would be out the door. :)

I have an actual relevant question, but as most of you haven't read this far, I'd better put it in a different comment. But, Julie, I'm with you. Just remember, there's some bizarro woman growing irises and goats out in Idaho who dissed every single one of my editors. She's the only beta that ever made me cry. And then I realized, "What kind of person builds herself up by tearing other people down?" And suddenly I understood. It wasn't about my manuscript at all. She was the only beta I ever fired. Kindly, of course.

Months later, she found me on Linked In asking to connect and still growing irises and goats, trying to get published. I connected. Her sample work has an intro sentence with seventeen commas.

I wish her luck.


Julie said...

So here's my relevant question. Carolynn, I very recently crossed that line in the sand of being able to put that word "Published" by the word "Author" on documents and only blush a little.

This is because I'm part of this writing organization that publishes a newsletter, and it has actual editors and sends out the newsletter to actual members, and has bylaws and such. Yay.

So I write these articles. Yay for me.

But how do I put this on a query letter for novels? I feel like it's so artificial, but it's a heck of a lot more relevant than the fact that I can intubate a kid in less than five minutes (Yay me again).

It's like Author-anon. "Hi, I'm Julie, I'm technically published, but only for a newsletter, but I know CPR and I have completely irrelevant doctoral and masters degrees."

"Hi, Julie!"

"This week, I sent out five query letters!"

(clap, clap, clap)

"And I got one rejection."


"But I'm still trying. And my new manuscript is going well..."

So. Fellow group-members, what do I do with the sheepish "I'm published, but..." thing?

(Going to gather coffee and coming to sit back down in metal folding chairs as I anxiously await answers from The Group. And can someone turn down the air conditioning? I'm freezing. And, by the way, who made these lemon bars? They're great!)

Anonymous said...

Julie: Yeah, I'm kind of there with my own novel. Too many suggestions (whether they belong to other writers, agents, editors, or Aunt Martha) can be worse than none.

Maybe it would help to set that opening aside, and rewrite it completely somehow - start the story a minute earlier or later, try a different point of view, focus on something different... And DO NOT look at any of the past openings when you do this. It can help you to see it more objectively that way.

Once you get 101 suggestions, objectivity goes out the window, because you're not quite sure what the opening is anymore. It's no longer your beginning - it's turned into a chimera of other people's suggestions. Rewriting it with a major difference can help pull it out of the clutches of the 'suggestors', and put you in control again.

You don't have to keep the new beginning. Or you can keep it and workshop it, too. But at least you'd have a clearer head about it.

Good luck. Like I said before, you're a good writer. You're just lost in a maze of suggestions.

b-Nye said...


Anonymous said...


Air conditioning? That's not air conditioning. That's lack of a furnace working during a week that's been hovering around 10C (50F) temps outside.

As for how to put this in a query letter...

I've been working as a writer for over a decade. I can go to a brochure rack and pick out the ones I wrote or edited. There are documents I can look for online that I may have written the first edition for, but have been re-edited. I newspaper clippings for articles I've written. I can point out websites I've helped to manage, write for, edit, and design.

The problem is, none of that really matters. If I'm forced to write a bio, or if an agent says they like to know you have some writing chops somewhere, I'll put in the years I wrote in different jobs. I try to make it sound interesting (it was interesting to me, anyway). But beyond the fact that you can write to a deadline, it doesn't help an agent who is looking at your fiction.

And if I'm totally wrong, please someone tell me, and I will immediately start putting it in all my query letters. Because writing for a living really helps the writer to figure out how to put words together. I think it's great experience, and any writer who can get such a job is lucky. But I really don't think it matters in a query letter.

Does it?

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I picked those magazine titles at random, as not-lit mags o.o

However, I did not know that Reader's Digest was mostly reprint only, so I'm glad to have learned something!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Thank you captain BS, always to the rescue with kind words.
Off topic but I have to share because I am totally bowled over.

You know - sometimes when all seems stagnant, on the edge, over the edge or dead, something happens from behind the curtain to talk you back from the brink.
I checked Amazon today to see if a friend of mine, a teacher, (college level/creative writing), first reader and terrific writer had her third book up and for sale. There it was. I clicked on the cover and started to read the sample.
I am the first named in her acknowledgments.
That she would include me, and list me first, is an honor beyond honor. The thought brings me to tears.
I bought the book, can’t wait for her to autograph it and I bought the Kindle edition because I can’t wait to read it - again.

If Janet will allow, my writer/friend’s name is IM Pampuro and the book, The Perfect Pitch.

Well, I finally got my name (without the 2Ns) in a book.

Anonymous said...


They are offering genuine advice and trying to be helpful, but I think in this case it's a matter of style maybe. It's like the discussion we had not long ago about trusting your work to people you don't know on the beta reading sites.

At the Denver conference I was in a workshop where we had sent in the first I think it was 30 pages of our work before the conference. Each person in the workshop got everyone else's and was supposed to make written notes before the conference. A Del Rey editor was the leader of the workshop and she was wonderful.

In the workshop Each person read a bit from their piece and then the other students gave their overall impressions. Most were at least somewhat helpful. When everyone else was done, the editor would go over her notes.

One man had simply written at the top of each selection, "Great job. Good luck!" This after everyone had done extensive edits and comments on his work. He lolled in his chair with his little Rhett Butler mustache and explained he really didn't need this class, he was just here to promote his book, but he was enjoying the comments. In other words, feel free to worship me, you unpublished peons you, because I am on the verge of greatness.

I found out later he wasn't published either and nor did he find the agent he was positive he was going to find.

On the flip side was Polly Perfect who sliced everyone to ribbons. Beth Shope was there. I'm familiar with Beth's work. It's absolutely luscious fantasy. It opens with the MC performing a ceremony. His people might be similar to Native Americans if you needed a quick and dirty description. So, he's doing the ceremony and gets out his flute. Polly Perfect laughs and says, "This is just stupid. They don't use flutes. They use drums."

I gasped. Beth writes epic fantasy and Polly Perfect is telling her what kind of musical instruments her people use? Then she shredded the writing up one side and down the other. Beth, of course, was very gracious. I was not so much. The editor pretty much negated everything Polly Perfect had to say, made a few suggestions and said it was gorgeous writing.

Of course, FR got shredded to the bone, but that's fine. It had some problems, but I guess there was still enough merit for the editor to request it later. Unfortunately she left the job a few months later.

So, we get to Polly Perfect's piece. Dastardly enemy soldiers are breaking into the tower where the beautiful priestess is hiding. They break down the door! Oh no! They're going to rape her! They drag a table into the block of sunlight where her titian locks seem to be on fire as they cascade off the edge of the table.

I raised my hand. "So, do the rapists drag the table into the sunlight because the dramatic flaming hair effect excites them?"

There was some very good advice there and some not so good. You take what you get.

As for the cheap at twice the price remark, yep, we use that all the time.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Well, I tried to delete my comment @2;25 and edit, because my writer/friends pen-name is LM Pampuro.
I knew I should have read it one more time :(

Julie said...

Julie - Meh. Iris / Goat woman was a while ago. Baaaaa.... Whenever I see the Geico commercials, I think of her. It's okay.

What I was trying to say, inelegantly as ever, was that one finds good and bad betas/editors just as one finds good and bad anythings in a mix of people, and you have to understand that going in or you end up google-eyed and out of tissues (and needing medications, to boot).

I never read my beta returns unless I'm well-rested (which I'm not at all right now, probably because I'm actively writing and my mind is on overdrive; on the other hand, I won't get any beta stuff back, either), well-fed, not irritable, and not uber-needy. Because reading any feedback in any of those states is a setup for badness for both the beta and myself, not to mention the MS.

And even so, I'm prepared for a couple of days of crying.

And then I set the tissues aside and get to work, taking what I figure they're right about and putting the rest of it in the "Maybe. I'll think about it." bin.

Some of it is little "Cut & Paste" stuff.

Some of it is major rehauling (most recently, I ended up actually breaking a book in half, cutting 40K words out of a 109K book and rewriting the end to it, splicing the 40K into a new second book, and writing a new BEGINNING to that; in the end, it's a much stronger story. More work? You bet. But it's a better pair of MS's for it.)

I love my betas. But finding them takes diligence and respect on both sides.

And if I get any colder, I'll go into torpor.


Anonymous said...



"Good luck. Like I said before, you're a good writer. You're just lost in a maze of suggestions."

Not really lost. I'm confident in the opening. I'm just frustrated, but the opening is where it needs to be and I have other things to worry about.

When you want a hen to set in a certain place you put wooden eggs there to encourage her. She'll start laying in that nest so you can either find her eggs easier to gather them or set her in a safer spot than where she might have chosen. But no matter how long she sits on those wooden eggs, they aren't going to hatch. She has to add something new to the nest.

I can't keep rewriting the opening for another umpteen years. The instructor has some good suggestions about the process of writing, which is what I am finding helpful, but this not so much.

Karen McCoy said...

Julia: Do you edit some of the pieces that are written for the newsletter? For a while, I edited our local RWA chapter newsletter, and used to include that in my bio. Another alternative is to mention the newsletter by title and that you wrote about "topic a" and "topic b."

Julie: I think I've met versions of "One Man" and "Polly Perfect" in my MFA program.

"One Man" told me he always waited for critique before determining which aspects of his story needed work. Even now, semesters later, he still submits pieces that are barely put together. And he hardly ever speaks up in class to give critique to anyone else.

Polly Perfect is a guy I like to call "Literal Guy from Literalville" because unless he's seen it for himself, it's not true, shouldn't exist, and should be axed from the story. Period.

So many workshops get bogged down with this kind of minutia. Drives me batty. But it makes your brilliant response about the titian locks even more priceless!

Unknown said...

To the OP (original poster) :

Congrats for receiving good feedback from a retired senior editor.

I have some questions. Does publishing part of this work make it « published » with relinquished rights ? Was there a contract that would somehow disturb the publishing with Big Ass Publisher ? Just curious.

Suppose Awesome Agent falls in love with your manuscript CALLs you with big pre-empt from Big Ass Publisher, asks you to remove this crisis moment or to rewrite it. What then?

Colin, love your image of very stressed agent. For some reason I harbour a similar.

Captain Brain BS, your job is to distract but “ target market remarks” makes me think writers are spearing agents with bows and arrows.

Julie, dear Julie,
Your frustration is felt and understood. It reminds me of when I finally bought dream abode. I longed since ever of dream abode. My entire life. I desired it so much that when the contractor was finishing details I grew angry. Like this arse is ruining my dream, I was actually going to move in. That’s when I realized my dream was not waking up, making coffee and enjoying dream abode, my dream was dreaming about it. Lay those eggs Babe and let someone eat them. Julie, I loved tending bar and I'm happy I don't anymore. I love your stories. Love is a heavy word in my vocabulary.

Anonymous said...


You're right. There comes a time when you have to decide it's done. I think someone else posted that earlier - last week or the week before.

Which leads me to the question: Why are you getting it critiqued?

Which is probably why you've decided no more writing classes.

(See? Colin isn't the only one who can talk to himself in these comments.)

Anonymous said...


"Literal Guy from Literalville" <-- I've met this fellow. A long time ago. Before I ever met my current critique partners (whom I love dearly.)

I write space opera - imaginative, plot-driven futuristic adventures. He wrote hard science fiction - even had a couple short stories published in some big magazines. It was common in the 80s and 90s for such writers to claim only hard science fiction was science fiction, and all others (like space opera) were merely fantasy.

He pointed out all the impossibilities inherent in my (and all) space opera as being pure fantasy.

Which is one reason I currently have my science blog, Science For Imagination: to show that my 'pure fantasy' is a lot closer to reality than anyone ever thought it would be.

I've got nothing against hard science fiction, by the way, but I have everything against people who think their way is the only possible way. Like your "Literal Guy from Literalville". (I love that name. I may commandeer it.)

It took *this* many posts today to get a picture ReCaptcha. And it was pizza. Now I'm hungry - I'll be back after I buy something for supper.

Anonymous said...


I'm taking a writing course that is supposed to help writers learn how to deep edit their work. I think this is a valuable tool for any writer. My words certainly aren't sacred, but there does come a point where something has been done to the a place where you think it belongs and going back and reinventing it serves no purpose.

In retrospect, I should have skipped this lesson, because I really don't want to search for new places to start and look for ways to rewrite my opening. I did that exercise a few years ago. Now, the questions about if you're starting in the right place, are you engaging the reader, etc are valid and something I can tuck away for future works, which is what I will do.

Anonymous said...


""One Man" told me he always waited for critique before determining which aspects of his story needed work. Even now, semesters later, he still submits pieces that are barely put together. And he hardly ever speaks up in class to give critique to anyone else."

People like that drive me nuts. Fortunately at Books and Writers, most people make a sincere effort and all critiques are at leisure. I can usually glean something from every comment even if I don't agree with the whole post. No, I'm not going to remove all adverbs, but the other comments were helpful.

Anyway, I need to go do something productive and research witches or something.

Craig F said...

It seems simple. You have 250 words (or less) to make an agent see DOLLAR SIGNS ($$$$$$). Remember to put contact information at the end and screw the rest of it.

Screw the biography and all of the cute crap. Do not ever tell an agent anything about polish. They may prefer a satin finish. Of the thousands of books I have read I don't think I have seen one that was polished to perfection from cover to cover.

Use a concept and pacing to make it hard to put the book down when it is opened. Don't sweat the small stuff and when you get to the bottom it is all small stuff.

Get those two things right and you can even misspell the agent's name.


Anonymous said...


That is a very good reason to take a course. I'd just assumed it was a critique class. I'm sorry if I've added to your frustration.

I suppose I'm feeling rather frustrated, too. I, too, have spent a lot of time on the beginning of my novel. I, too, am really tired of having it critiqued, only to be told that something else is wrong. No one ever says, "I like this!" I mean, yes, a critique should have helpful suggestions, but sometimes it just feels like people are digging to find stuff to criticize.

I am going to get it critiqued one more time, though, at a workshop. And that will probably be the last time I have that beginning critiqued. I will take the pertinent suggestions, rewrite, and then leave it. Because at that point, it will be the best it can be until an agent or editor looks at it with professional eyes and says, "Let's do this."

I want this thing to sell, goldurn it. It's a great novel. A great story. But, so far, my query hasn't crossed the right desk at the right time.

And there will always be this woodland creature chitter going in my mind, "They don't like your beginning. Quick! Change it again!"

Hamburgers this time. And pasta. Okay. Time to throw supper on.

Karen McCoy said...

BJ: Feel free! And ugh. That guy sounds like a nightmare.

Julie: Glad to know that things at Books and Writers are better. (And makes me wonder how many "One Guys" somehow flit into MFA programs unnoticed.)

My MFA teachers are wonderful though--and one even told him, "Okay, 'One Guy.' You are officially not allowed to not speak in my class any longer." And then, at last, "One Guy" spoke up, and actually had some pretty insightful things to say.

Anonymous said...


Books and Writers has been pretty good for a long time, praise the Lord and pass the biscuits.

As with any place, you gravitate to a certain level. Beginning riders don't need in depth discussions on an elided POV when they're trying to figure out what first person is. That's the glory of the melting pot, though. Discussions about anything are subject to break out at any time.

Currently: Naked wedding practices in Colonial America, childbirth, Japanese hairstyles in 1970, correct way to use em dashes with speech and tags, dialogue tags, editing techniques, witches, how to do a literary critique of Outlander as you read (that should prove to be interesting), plus the umpteen other discussions about Outlander books and television show.

Most of the time, it's like a literary ferret cage exploded.

Gingermollymarilyn said...

@ Colin - Thanks. With that detailed picture you painted of the agent in the cab, it made me quick-read my query with that in mind. So sensible. And, happily, I was satisfied.

@ Julie W - Sorry for your frustration; grrrrrr. Hope the Shiner Bock helped, whatever that is!

@ 2N's - What a lovely honor, I'm happy for you. That's really special.

Anonymous said...

Shiner Bock is Texas beer. Shiner Bock always helps.

Anonymous said...


Congratulation on the acknowledgment. It's a wonderful thrill to see your name on the page. Good job and congratulations to your friend on publication!