In last Sunday's WIR Dena Pawling picked up on my comment that summers in NYC used to be unbearable. She said
I've never heard that people move north to Maine for the summer. But this does beg the question – why do people live in NY at all, if they'd just rather be somewhere else?
Well, we don't want to be someplace else! We just like visiting someplace else in August. And yes, it used to be close on unbearable here. For starters, the subways were not air conditioned. Men used to ride to work in their undershirts, keeping their dress shirts on hangars to put on once they reached the office.
I myself did not witness this, but one of the MANY great things about having the late (dearly, sorely missed) Richard Gilbert for a client, is that I heard many of his stories of mid-last century New York. I loved hearing them. As a devoted devout New Yorker, who would live no place else, they were like hearing old family stories.
Richard Gilbert's memoir of the advertising biz is still in print through Diversion Books. I love this book with a passion.
And this from Colin Smith about the source of Mrs. Smith's recent hospital stay:
Thanks again for those who expressed well-wishes for my wife. I won't go into the whole story of what happened to her here (maybe I'll bless those at Bouchercon with the details), but suffice to say it had to do with pushing an 8,000 lb vehicle
Just begs for a flash fiction contest, doesn't it?
CarolynnWith2Ns had a great turn of phrase:
My first job, back when Jesus was a boy
If you're a devoted Gone With the Wind fan, you'll know that Scarlett's dad used a wonderful oath: God's nightgown! Well, now, thanks to Colin Smith, I have a new one: Great Despot's underpants.
On Monday, the topic was timing queries around industry events.
I called this out as the bunk that it is.
Susan Bonifant said
Comments that suggest what "writers should know" just leave us wondering what else we're supposed to know but don't.
Given I'm at nearly THREE THOUSAND posts on this blog, not counting QueryShark, not counting That.Earlier.Blog, if there's anything left you don't know, I'd be hard pressed to imagine what it is.
On the other hand, there will be five new blog posts this coming week, so I guess there are new ways youze guyz twist yourselves into knots no matter how fast I write!
Colin Smith let slip there's an Annual Buttonweezer Family Pig Pickin' and Swamp Diving celebration, but neglected to tell us all WHEN, so we could join in the fun. You can see why he's still on Carkoon, can't you?
And this was a VERY interesting bit of information from brianrschwarz (who is soaking wet I see)
To the Holiday comments, so far my most successful queries (statistically which ones have garnered partial/full requests) have been between November 1st and December 31st. So I think Janet is on to something here.
I think Christina Seine has the title for that book y'all keep wanting me to write: NEVER query during a zombie apocalypse.
Karen McCoy wondered:
this is a relief, as I've heard people say things like, "Don't query right after NaNo, because that's when every Buttonweezer is submitting their first-draft manuscript." But like any assumption, it's probably theoretical.
The number of queries I get does not spike after NaNoWrMo. I've watched this for a couple years now, cause I'd also heard about people finishing on 11/30 and sending to agents on 12/1. So far, an urban legend.
Regular blog reader/commenter LynnRodz had a lovely hospital sojourn with a panic attack. Let's all give her stern looks and remind her NOT to do that again. (Panic attacks feel like heart attacks. They're NOT fun)
And it turns out that some of the exiles in Carkoon may be trying to wend their way back home, sub rosa.
kdjames told us:
I actually came over here to tell you all that I've got a guy coming over tomorrow afternoon to evict Woodland Creatures from my attic. I haven't seen them, but the heavy thumping noises make me suspect they're not squirrels. I'm guessing raccoons. Or fellow commenters. So, fair warning. Get out while you still can. And next time, ring the doorbell. I won't answer, of course, but I won't have you forcibly removed either.
to which Colin Smith replied:
kd: I can just imagine the guy going up to your attic and finding pieces of paper with lists of dates "When Not To Query" tacked to the walls... :)
JEN Garrett said something interesting:
I'll never query Janet with my current manuscript (which is ready) because I found out Janet doesn't rep PBs. I still think she'd love one of my novels, but I need to find an agent that reps ALL my work.
Since I don't know what PBs are, I'm going to assume JEN is right that I don't rep them/it/those. Peanut Butter? Paranormal Bats? Police Blotters? Pantie Brigade?
Someone, help here!
On Wednesday, I ranted about a new BAD format I'm seeing in query letters. I may have gotten a bit testy.
Brandi M contributed some good info on why people might be doing this:
This is a standard format for many query contests, and I wonder if those committing such a crime are using the contests entries as a how-to guide. If so, they aren't following the other rule most contests put forward. Always check the agent's submission guidelines before sending material.
Lynn Rodz pointed out:
I heard the snarl, but there are some really big tip-top agents who want to know why you've chosen to query them before you tell them about your novel. And some of them want the housekeeping done first before you entice them with dinner.
Here's why that's a terrible thing to ask writers to do: Many of you get the category wrong. And you (oh so many times!) have NO clue that category is one thing not seven.
I think when you put the category at the top of the query it gives agents a VERY easy reason to click NO or click bypass.
IF on the other hand you've got a good story they're more invested. AND if you've got a good story, and you also got the category wrong (this isn't urban fantasy, it's an apocalyptic thriller!) you've got a better chance of surviving to a request.
I know I tell you to follow the directions, but in this one case, I think you're MUCH better off doing it my way. I don't think any agent rejects you for putting housekeeping in the last paragraph but we've ALL seen dozens of agents on Twitter say "sf, not for me, reject"
Later down the comment trail, I shrieked AHA! when Dena Pawling said:
In my trawling out and about the Internet, the reason I've seen given by agents who want title, genre, and word count up front is so they can quickly reject if it's not worth their time because they don't rep that genre or the manuscript is way too short or too long. It saves them time. Some of them say they'll skim the query if that info isn't first, so they read it first even if you put it last.
I KNEW IT!
Jenny C makes a good point:
But seriously. If I were an agent, and I represented everything from Middle Grade to a variety of adult genres I would definitely want to know what sort of book I was reading about before I read the first line of a query.
If I can't tell what kind of book this is by how you write, we've got a bigger problem than where you put the housekeeping info.
I DO like to have an idea at the end of the query just in case what I thought was a middle grade adventure story turns out to be a memoir of your honeymoon, but generally the story should show me enough info for me to make a pretty good guess.
And yes, I've gotten queries that didn't have much detail about category including whether it was fiction or not, and that was supremely confusing.
On Wednesday the topic was asking an agent for help at the developmental stage.
I didn't think it was a good idea.
QUESTION: Where to you find your beta readers? And how to you choose them? I would think you'd nix your friends and family for this job. (At least I would.)
Amanda Capper said:
I found my beta readers at the local library. They have a mystery reader group and they were actually flattered I wanted their opinion on my writing. Could they be brutal? they asked. By all means, I answered.
But they weren't. Older ladies for the most part, and sharp. Picky about grammar, not really sure about POV's, but dead on about content.
Lisa Bodenheim said:
Kitty: I found my crit partners and beta readers online through blogs I follow.
I don't use family and friends. Not yet. I'll ask them once my novel is past the worst of its revisions and is ready to be read as a whole rather than chapter by chapter or section by section.
And that odd sound you hear is me weeping with envy at this from Jenz:
I have nothing relevant to add, except that I get to go see the GREATEST MOVIE EVER MADE--Casablanca--at the historic Paramount Theater in Austin on Friday. You should all be jealous.
And just a housekeeping note: a whole raft of comments got deleted cause they were about the spam comment that slipped by during the day. I try to keep the comments column pretty tidy, so if you comment on spam comments, you're most likely going to have that comment deleted when I find it. Don't be offended, I just don't like to leave spam there.
On Thursday I asked if it was possible to wring the life out of a manuscript with critiques? The consensus is Yup, it is.
I really liked this insight from Craig:
If you paint in something like watercolor you know when to quit on a painting that isn't quite there. The colors get muddy. When that happens the more you screw with it the worse it gets.
I also liked what DeadSpiderEye said about online critiques, particularly that "people who're serious about trying to offer help are explicit"
My experience of on-line critique is limited, I gave it up as a waste of time and effort, after bumping into the resident queen bee. Trouble was he (I think it was a he) had absolute assurance in his own insight and unfortunately, his literary skill, examples of which I persistently flooded the board with.
What I did learn, is that people who're serious about trying to offer help are explicit, qualify their opinion and the really good ones, are capable of easily assimilating style or genre. I'm sure someone's pointed out here already, that a collective analysis will tend to flatten out prose, it may end up more polished but could end up lacking in individuality. In fact, I would go as far as saying that unfocused negative reaction could be a good sign. The essential problem is that writing, is intrinsically concerned with communication, and communication is -always- a two way process, even if you're just asking: message understood?
And from Kurt Dinan:
I revise, revise, revise, but try to heed the advice of my friend (and great writer) Daryl Gregory (name drop!), who always warns against "over-carving the pumpkin." I just love that phrase. (me too!)
KC had a very interesting insight:
I think as writers we're most vulnerable when we are eager for feedback (and encouragement) and show things too soon.
If we ourselves don't know what we're trying to do then it's hard to know which input is useful...
And Terri Lynn Coop is back with what sounds like a punch line to a helluva crit goup story:
Then there's someone who challenges you on the spelling of your made-up word . . .
On Friday the topic was what to do about conflicting feedback
I said ignore it.
I think Susan Bonifant hit the nail on the head with this comment:
changing a book won't ALWAYS improve it.
And this from Linda Strader makes me want to buy her a drink and hear more:
It took me a year and a half to realize my critique group (and the editor I hired, and some comments from agents I queried) were leading me the wrong direction. I've learned to have faith in my own work.
And Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli asked:
I was wondering if "quesion" is QOTKU testing us to see when we'll see the typo.
What typo? I reply. I don't see no stinkin' typo!
On Saturday, I reprinted Dena Pawling's terrific short synopsis example.
Of course, many of you had already seen it in the comments, but I wanted to make sure it got the attention it deserves, so asked Dena if I could make it a post. Fortunately, she didn't unlease her negotiating skills on me, and I got permission without having to cough up two commenters and a weeklong stay with Amy in Paradise.
I really liked how Susan Bonifant described the pain of synopsis writing:
Synopsis writing is a huge headache, but not just because you're trying fit 250 words in a Volkswagen. It's a headache because synopsis-telling makes you write like a police chief when you would rather spook the campers.
As usual all week, the off-topic comments were some of my favorites.
AJ Blythe mentioned there is a paint color called Resene's Shark, and so of course I clicked on the link to look. Very elegant!
And for those of you who might still be interested, yes the painting in the apartment continues. I'd planned to work on it this weekend, but the siren call of the filing in the office was just too strong.
And Amanda Capper captured my thoughts completely with this:
Julie, thanks for the picture of shark shit with worms. Another sentence I never thought I'd ever say.
This week's blog sub-heading is from a comment by Poor Dead Jed Cullan
It's not just the blog posts that make this an awesome blog, it's the comments from all the posters.