Welcome to the Week that Was for June 21.
Last week's review gave me a new word (I love new words!) from LynnRods: cruciverbalist.
kdjames picked up the thread about linking to your platform in queries:
I'd just had a conversation with a friend telling her I must be the only person in the world who writes a blog post and gets comments about it on a completely different blog (of which I'm admin, but it's a group effort). Thing is, it's a "private" blog. Well, not strictly private requiring sign-in, but way off the beaten path and not available to search engines. That's part of its charm and everyone over there values that sense of seclusion, however tenuous. I'd never give anyone a link to it just so they could assess some fucking platform. Those readers have supported and encouraged me from day one of this writing effort and I'm fiercely protective of them. Might that reluctance someday hurt my chances with an agent or publisher? I don't even care. Some things are far more important.
I agree. You're not required to list every place you participate in a discussion. Nor should you list a blog you don't want to. And no, it won't hurt your chances with an agent or publisher. Two things will do that: being an asshat, and writing crap. So far, neither of those seem likely.
Beth's story of autographed books made me laugh:
The phrase "drive-by signings" reminds me of a strange experience I had in a bookstore once. I was browsing the selection of new books. I pick up one, and noticed the author had signed the title page. I flip back to the cover to see if it was marked as an autographed copy. It was not, nor was there any indication on the display that these were autographed. I flip through a couple others, and see that they are all autographed.
I decided to alert the employees. They were as surprised as I was. The person behind the counter at the time happened to be one of the managers. He explained that the author was local. Apparently, the author had come in once and, without informing them, decided to autograph all the copies of his book. The manager shrugged and said they would mark the books accordingly.
I guess it's nice that the author was giving away free autographs, but what's the point of promotion if no one knows you're doing it?
This reminds me of a story told to me by an author who heard it from Elmore Leonard himself. Leonard was in a bookstore, collected his books from the shelf, took them to the front counter and asked the clerk if he would like to have him (Leonard) autograph them. The clerk looked nonplussed, then asked "why would I want you to deface the books like that?"
The rest of the story is lost to me now (it was years ago of course) but I laughed about that for a long time. Sadly, the only time I met Elmore Leonard in person was not the right time to ask about it. One of those things I hope I remember to ask about if I meet him in the afterlife.
On Monday the topic turned to concealing the writer's identity when querying for very dark material
I thought it was a good idea.
Colin Smith both posited the question of why we would read very dark material: Why, indeed, with such horrors on the news, would we want to be "entertained" by those same horrors in our fiction?
and answered with what I think is exactly why I like crime fiction and read it avidly:
One of the sad truths of the real world is that justice doesn't always prevail (in this life, anyway). Wicked men get away with wicked things. There are brave men and women who spend (and expend) their lives bringing physical restraint to the darkness in our society, but they don't always succeed. As writers, we can serve our culture by not simply showing wickedness and how bad it is, but satisfying that desire for evil to be vanquished and good to prevail.
I liked what Madeline Mora-Summonte said about writing dark:
My mind goes to dark places for stories. I don't know why. I fought it for awhile, for a number of reasons, but I've learned to embrace my voice, my writing style, my imagination. I tell the stories that want to be told. If that means I have to make sure the lights are on, the doors are locked, and nothing is lurking under the bed before I write them then so be it. And if my readers have to do the same thing then I did my job. :)
I loved this from DeadSpiderEye:
Generally folk cannot draw the distinction between what you write and who you are, I've lost count of times I've denied being: a vegetarian, deranged divorcee, serial seducer, twelve year old girl, death row inmate or hamster.(this was the runner up for the sub header this week, just FYI)
dellcartoons got this exactly right:
I can understand a reader being so disgusted by a book he specifically memorizes the author's name so he won't read anything else by her, but I'd think an agent reads too many queries a week to blacklist you because of a query you wrote over a year ago.
Subject matter won't blacklist a writer. I've gotten queries on subjects so awful I've replied instantly with "no, not for me" so as to discard the query immediately, but I don't enter the writer in my data base with "icky" as the category. There are a couple ways to get on my fecal roster: querying multiple times for the same project; scaring me; adding me to your mailing list; hostile replies to my response to your query.
The discussion veered off into spoilers when Colin Smith asked: how long after publication is a spoiler alert considered unnecessary?
The Maltese Falcon was the book that started the discussion. The Maltese Falcon was published in 1930. I think it's fair to say that you don't have to say *spoiler alert* for a book published in 1930. But, what about for The Crying Game, a film from 1992? Or The Sixth Sense from 1999? Gone Girl?
Some louse told me the ending of The Sting before I saw the movie. The movie was so good that I was STILL surprised when I saw it. And it's still a good movie even today on the tenth or twelfth viewing.
And remember what Jennifer R. Donohue said on WIR about Rebecca?
And, Rebecca is one of those books I read once, and after the last page flipped back to the first page and read again (Song of Solomon). I've read it so many times since then, maybe ten, I don't know. The mood, the characters, the layers...it's on my shortlist of Things I Recommend when people come to the library front desk and ask "What should I read?" (don't worry, I recommend new things too, and all across the genre charts, but "new" frequently means "not on the shelf, so we'll reserve it and give you something else in the meanwhile")
Knowing the ending doesn't spoil the book.
I think the test of a great book is if you know the ending, do you still get caught up in the story? The enjoyment of the book (or movie) doesn't depend on the twist at the end. To my mind that is why The Sixth Sense requires a spoiler alert all these years later whereas Rebecca does not.
I love the new name Mister Furkles coined for CarolynnWith2Ns: Carolynn of the Twin Inns.
And we all sent Christina Seine our prayers when she told us there was a forest fire out of control a few miles from her house.
On Tuesday the topic was number of points of view in a book,
DLM said something very interesting about the first person point of view in her novel:
after struggling a little bit and questioning it a lot, it made itself clear - first person it was to be. This is consistent with a character both wildly ambitious and, over time, increasingly powerful. The POV allowed me to "not see" certain aspects of the story and came with all the reliability and vanity the novel needed.
I haven't got seventeen characters going, but there are two POCs who are gaining prominence, and I can observe at different levels of perception as different scenes suit, which is a revelation. There are moments of minute attention, and then there are much wider-frame shots, as it were. I feel like a director who's been given a camera that can adjust from the deepest, detailed close-up to a sweeping panorama, photographing each beautifully. So, as closely related as the WIP is to AX, it's a different world.
brianrschwarz had an interesting take on multiple POV
The tough part is with multiple first - you NEED to have multiple STYLE. And style does not = voice. You need language in first person narration outside of dialogue that feels completely independent of other chapters. A really good example of this in the sci-fi genre is Across The Universe by Beth Revis. She manages to tell her story from two perspectives, one a 16 year old girl and the other a 18 year old boy. And I could tell you after reading 3 sentences of any random selection in that book exactly who is talking.
I'll offer up CHUM by Jeff Somers as a great example of multiple PsOV. Each part of the story is told in first person, but by a different person, and it's so skillfully told you know who is talking in the first sentence. CHUM is the book I signed Jeff for, and although it took me nine years to sell it, it's still one of the best books I've ever read.
(In case you want to know more)
I think bjmuntain said it best here:
The trick with any literary device is to make it invisible. … You want the reader to read the story as though it is a story. You want the reader immersed in the story; you don't want them noticing your techniques or devices.LynnRodz asked:
Referring to Janet's comment, "And if they tell me it's seventeen PsOV, I can just say no to the query and save us all some time." I know, I know, she took that number out of the air, but I'm curious to know if someone told her, "My ms has 5 (or 6 or 7...) PsOv." what number would be too many for her, that she would just say no to the query.
There's no hard and fast number to cite here because I'll read just about anything if I think the writing is good. Even 36 points of view kinds of things. But the writing IN THE QUERY needs to entice me. Unpolished, un-zesty writing and three points of view is non-starter for me. CHUM had at least 10 points of view; I read it, loved it, signed it and sold it. Write as well as Jeff Somers, you're good. (Don't tell him I said this of course; gotta keep those writers on their toes!)
I loved this from Amanda Capper:
I'm improving, but this whole writing thing is not getting any easier. Kind of like learning to play golf. First couple of times if you have any natural talent you do okay. Then you start taking lessons and really suck. Eventually you get better.And the day is not complete without a pithy phrase from Julie.M.Weathers;
I'm at the sucking part and the sucking part sucks. (this was also a candidate for the sub-header this week)
We need to be able to discern where the desire to improve stops and the whoring starts. There's a bit too much of the blind dog chasing the meat wagon going on at times.
The fire update from Christina Seine was very welcome:
Thank you everyone SO much for your kind thoughts and prayers! The fire has grown by about 2,000 acres overnight, so now it's at 8.5k and still 0% contained, but the evacuation line hasn't grown in our direction. I'm told that could change if winds pick up again, though, so we're just staying packed and ready to go at a moment's notice (or if the smoke gets too bad again). I’m worried about my poor bees – there isn’t room in our truck for 80,000 unhappy buzzers, so hopefully they can figure out where to go on their own if need be. The good news is that hotshot crews just arrived from the Lower 48 (and girls, there's a reason they call them "hotshot" crews, lol) but the bad news is that there's another fire out of control on the Kenai Peninsula a few hundred miles to the south, and it is also endangering residential areas, so now the firefighting resources are split.
Alaskans are funny people. Most of the time we are violently anti-social and fiercely independent. However, when the need arises, total strangers will risk everything to help each other. They'll give everything they have. They’ll bring four people and ten dogs into a cabin that’s built for two and somehow make it work. They’ll go into a smoke-filled house to find a cat hiding under a bed. People barely scraping by on less money than food stamps would pay are bringing food and cold drinks to firefighters. It's pretty amazing to watch. =)
and then the REALLY good news:
Thank you all SO much for the continued prayers and good wishes! I wanted to report that we were all crashed in the living room, dog tired and listening to Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong sing "Summertime," when suddenly the wind picked up like crazy and the whole place turned dark. Before we could all sit up and say, "Whoa!" a storm rolled in and started thundering and lightning-ing, and now - in spite of a forecast that had called for ZERO precipitation this week - it is pouring down rain! THANK GOD! And now I'm off to find some kleenex, because ... my eyes are leaking. I've never been so happy to see rain in my life! =)
On Wednesday the topic was querying for a book you didn't write:
Craig asked: First, if it is a memoir wouldn't you write a proposal like a non-fiction book?
Memoir is non-fiction, but it's queried like a novel. That means the whole book needs to be written before you start querying; you need to include the first 3-5 pages in a query, not a proposal; you write the query in 1st POV and tell me what was at stake/what choices had to be made.
Most important for a memoir though is significance: what will the reader take away from this that will have utility in their own lives?
Megan V made a good point her:
On the other hand, when the author is someone who does not speak English, who lives in the USA, and who (particularly as its a memoir!) might have a brilliant story, I worry that this instant cautious rejection might perpetuate a lack of diversity in the market and prevent the dissemination of potentially historically valuable information(especially in the case of an elderly relative). This is especially true if the author's language and dialect is one that is not readily spoken by many other members of the US population. Shouldn't there be a way around this roadblock aside from telling the original author"Hey grandma learn to speak English?"
The roadblock is ONLY for general trade publishing. There are lots of other places that this author could find an audience: self publishing is of course the first thing that comes to mind. Academic presses too. As I suggested privately to the questioner, if the writer wants to just make sure her story is told, lodging papers with a historical society is often an option. Historians of the future need those kinds of original sources.
Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli asked:
I have a question, how do editors deal with the translator’s copyright?
I don't know. I've never had to deal with translation on this end. All my dealings are with English source material being translated in to other languages.
However, here's the copyright page for The Devotion of Suspect X which was originally published in Japanese:
Notice that the translation was handled by a rights professional? My guess is the copyright here in the States is registered by the publisher, but the contract for publication would spell it out. My contracts with overseas pubishers say they will register the copyright in their country and make sure it's listed in the book.
I'm not sure how the conversation took an odd turn in to giving money to panhandlers but it did, and I like what DLM said:
Donna, I'm reminded of a sitcom from 15 years ago, "Sports Night." Robert Guillaume starred as the show's executive, and he had a scene once where he described a very similar moment, walking into his building for work, on a frigid cold winter's day. Someone responded to him, "Weren't you worried he was just going to buy a bottle of liquor?" And he replied, "I HOPE he was going to buy a bottle of liquor. It that gives him warmth and comforts him, it is worth it to me to share just a little bit of my money to give him what he needs. It's not mine to judge what he does with that money." (Roughly remembered dialog, of course.)
I've always given to panhandlers when I could (though I can admit when I was living downtown, I did consciously cultivate a habit of rarely having cash on my person), without consideration for what they might do with the money. I've given to folks I know are what some call "scammers" (ones I heard the same story from many times, though they never recognized me), given sandwiches when I was full and had half left I could share, given in parking lots and at intersections. As long as I don't endanger my security, I'll give and not judge outcomes.
Panhandlers work the subways in New York City like ATMs. For years I ignored them. One Sunday my priest gave a homily on our obligation to help those in need. Our job is not to judge them about how they came to need help, or judge them on the kind of help they need. Our job is just to help if we can. Give a panhandler a dollar if you have one to spare.
After that I started carrying singles in with my metro card. When asked, I gave.
Father Santos also said that we needed to recognize Christ in the panhandler, and even if we had no money, we should look the panhandler in the eye, and ask for God's blessing upon him.
It took me months, if not years to be able to fully implement this. Avoiding looking at panhandlers was so ingrained it took a steadfast act of will every single time to even try doing something different.
Even now, years later, I can't always do it.
But I try. Most of the time I try. Are these guys spending the money on booze? I don't know. It's not my job to ask. My job is only to reflect Christ's love in the world. As soon as I get that right, I'll start worrying about what the other guy is doing.
Here endeth the lesson.
On Thursday, the topic was whether a project is dead in the water if it doesn't receive a quick offer of representation
bjmuntain got it exactly right with this:
It's a statistical problem. When the subjects are self-reporting, you're going to get a very subjective view. People are pleased as punch to report the good stuff, while those who don't have 'good stuff' to report often just won't report. So reporting is skewed. I would think that the reporting done by agents might be more objective (they're not as emotionally involved), though I doubt the amount of time between 'query sent' and 'offer of representation' would be something an agent would worry about. They know the business. They know how long things take.
Kari Lynn Dell's real life experience is probably the best response to the questioner:
First off, her Sharkness speaks the truth about her own signing timeline. I submitted a full to her in September and didn't get an offer until late February, and that was many, many moons ago when she had fewer clients and, I assume, a smaller number of queries. It is possible that by the time she called, I had ask "Janet Who?".John Frain added:
And second, for the record, the mind games don't end after you sign. You will send your latest to your agent, and if you don't get back rave reviews within three days you'll assume she's been busy composing the letter in which she explains why signing you was a horrible mistake. And then after you sell--my current state of insanity--you'll submit the second book in a series then gnaw off your fingernails convinced your editor is taking weeks to get back to you because she can't figure out how to break the news that it sucks toads without causing you to jump off a tall building.
And then, of course, she drops you a line and says how she's sorry, she's so behind and has several projects coming up on deadlines and hasn't even opened the file yet.
And then the book hits the shelves and you've got millions of potential rejections. Yay!
So basically life as a writer is long stretches of self-induced crazy, bouts of rejection depression, interrupted by moments of joy that dissolve almost immediately into the next phase of self-induced crazy. Why are we doing this again?
Oh, right. Because otherwise when I talk about the voices in my head, instead of thinking it's cool people pick up their drink and sidle away.
I've just started querying, and last night saw two different writers on Query Tracker who were signed after 11 months and 14 months respectively. The 14 month nudged the agent, got a "sorry for the time/thanks for nudging" response and then a couple months later got the offer. TOTALLY get where you're coming from though. Hang in there.And I loved this from Jennifer R. Donohue:
With every single thing I submit, be it a short story or a novel, it's Schrödinger's Submission as far as I'm concerned. It is both a yes and a no and I will not know until I open the [in]box and find out at the end of the ordeal (we can dither about what the radioactive isotope is in this analogy). In my short story experience, the rejections which took the longest to arrive were typically the nice, personalized sort. Depending. Some mags just take forever, and it's still a form. Just the way it is.
It looks like Kitty wonders what it would be lie to spend summer on Carkoon:
How about a contest with prompt phrases as opposed to prompt words?
Before I could write her an open-return ticket however, my attention was riveted by this horrifying comment from DLM
Has anyone ever been put on an agency mailing list after a rejection? I received an email today advertising classes from an agency that rejected me recently - just a standard R, nothing special about it. I'm not offended, merely bemused; but it seems to me to make little more sense, really, than a rejectee putting an agent on their newsletter or blast list. I queried you once, you passed. We're kinda done here.
This is incredibly tacky. When people do this to me, I set their addresses to spam. Because writers would probably not prefer to set an agent's email to spam, it's quadruply tacky.
This is the kind of info that should be shared on AbsoluteWrite forums and QueryTracker notes.
I'm just totally and completely appalled here.
And then this from Dena Pawling just made me tear out my hair:
DLM – that sounds almost exactly like the discussion we had here a few days ago, with the agents rejecting and then advertising their editing services. It's not exactly the same, because editing is more personal than a class, but still, I agree it sounds shady.
Let me be clear: using a rejection letter as sales tool is unprofessional, and rude.
Unfortunately DLM has had to move to Carkoon after this:
Now, if JANET had a newsletter ... :) There we'd have a shark of a different color
I'm sure she'll be a welcome addition to the crowd there.
And oh look, Beth wants to go too!
I agree; if Janet had a newsletter, I would subscribe even more quickly than I'd buy her book.
Colin Smith asked
I wonder if Janet's been contacted about advertising on her blog?
Sometimes. Not a lot, but sometimes misguided people want to advertise. It's clear they've never seen the blog, let alone read a post or ten.
My faves are the ones who want to write for the blog. As IF!
Then DLM and Beth both backpedaled on their scheduled launch to Carkoon,
Perish the thought! I may be relatively new here, but I know better than to try to suggest that Janet add anything else to her schedule.
Please don't send me to Carkoon.
but TOO LATE LADIES!!
To which Colin Smith said: "Summertime on Carkoon: And you thought a form rejection was disappointing..." :)
Friday and Saturday are the TEXTS FROM MITTENS writing contest. Results on Monday. I can't wait to read your entries.
sub header: Never think that an agent's time is more important than yours
You'll notice that bjmuntain's name is not on the subheader even though the line is from a comment she posted on 6/17/15. I did that for a very specific reason. In the comment, she said it as though it was a query tip from me. And when you think about that phrase, when said by a writer, it has a more truculent sensibility, than when it's said by an agent. Talk about translation issues; this is a great example of trying to get the sense right by changing what's actually said.
Have a great week.