Last week, the WIR went AWOL. I blame the cat.
|Her Grace, the Duchess of Yowl|
Faced with the choice of petting the cat or doing any kind of work, I picked the cat. I'm sure the cat concierges among us will understand. There was, however, in place of the post, a lovely string of comments introducing us to various fuzzy family members.
I must say though Amy Schaefer's comment was really cool:
And, if I went outside right now, I might be lucky enough to see the pod of dolphins make their daily migration to the next island over. Not pettable, but lovely wildlife all the same.And nighstmusic's comment just cracked me up:
My dobes would let anyone have whatever someone wanted if they broke into the house. If they have a cookie? The dobes will carry everything to the car!But it was Kae Ridwyn's comment that surprised me the most:
There's a camel farm across the road from us. Ever so often they decide to graze near the fence, and we can see them clearly from our bedroom windows, just 30 metres away. Being able to watch them on such a regular basis makes me feel pretty special. My German Shepherd and Australian Cattle Dog go nuts though, wanting to herd them! It's kinda funny, really.
Camel farm? I knew there were reindeer farms (I lived next to one for a couple years!) and mink farms (raised for their pelts, not as pets) but I had NO idea such a thing as a camel farm existed.
On Monday, the results of the Duchess of Yowl Flash Fiction contest were announced.
I decided to do what someone else said, write it, post it, THEN read the other entries. I almost deleted it because everyone's read so much better.reminds me to tell you to NEVER assume your entry won't catch my attention. Sometimes that one turn of phrase, or a great sentence is enough to do it. Have confidence in yourself!
Poof! had a spelling note:
2) Spell check on paws. (Lallygagging should be lollygagging). Op. cit. Cat.Now, this is the interesting thing: blogger corrects lollygagging to lallygagging! When I spell czech with Word, it's lollygag. When I checked with online dictionaries: lollygagging.
AJ Blythe missed posting because of time zone confusion:
I tried to do what I said I would - post *then* read. Unfortunately it would seem I messed up my timezones again (somehow calculating 10pm not 10am for closing) because when I went to post it was... closed =(Would a countdown clock be useful? There are a lot of places I can create a widget that would appear on the contest post site that would tell you the number of hours remaining. Given we have readers all around the world now I was thinking that might be something to add. Let me know, ok?
And in case you were wondering just how self-involved I am, it took me a week, and two reads to figure out that our winner here was also the winner at Flash! Friday.
I couldn't figure out how Colin had missed Marie's win, given he was commenting on the exact post that mentioned it:
PS: I just noticed Marie won this past Friday's Flash! Friday Contest too!! Wow--that's the kind of double-whammy I can only dream of!! Well, done, Marie. What an awesome start to the week for you!! :D
The light dawned when I read this from Michael Seese:
Congratulations to Marie on 2/3 a hat trick: a win here AND Flash! Friday.
Yup, Janet, there are other blogs in the universe. And contests. Get a grip on your ego, SharkForBrains!
On Tuesday I posted a new approach to getting the gist of a query on the page.
This comment from Lucie Witt was interesting:
Before I start on a new WIP, I write a query draft. It essentially reads like back cover copy.
As I draft, I return to my query several times and tweak it. Sometimes this means adjusting to match new plot points that come up as I write. Sometimes it also helps me remember to stay on my main plot when I'm drafting and subplots start tempting me to go a million different directions.
I've found that when I can't make the query work as I draft, it usually means something's wrong with my plotting.
I've often said that if you really can't get the plot into a query, it's possible there's no plot in the book as well. But, I never thought about using a query as the first step in writing the novel.
I wondered if other writers did this, and sure enough, Susan Bonifant said:
Lucie Witt, a while back, I kinda sorta joked about writing the query first. Then I did it with my current WIP. I followed a path like yours, back and forth from query to changing story and back again to keep the query from sprawling.
I thought it would be more organized, and it is. But I very much like the idea that after two years of writing my heart out, the query won't loom (or will loom less) like a big scary pass/fail guard at the end of it all.
For me, and maybe you and others, this kinda sorta really works.
And Lisa Bodenheim too:
Lucie and Susan: yes, that's how I've working at it too for the past year. The query and the WiP inform each other
I find this fascinating.
Julie M. Weathers attended a panel at Surrey about queries:
The panel was split on where they want the housekeeping stuff. Some want it up front so if the word count is off or it's the wrong genre they can stop reading right there. One agent refuses to read anything over 100,000 words regardless of genre.This is EXACTLY why I advise writers to put the housekeeping stuff at the bottom. At least give your novel a fighting chance to entice an agent before you mention category (which you get wrong a lot) or word count.
This is the ONE time when "follow the directions" is not what you want to do.
On Wednesday I jumped up and down about cleaning up your web presence before you query:
LynnRodz bemoaned her lack of blog fodder:
Pets? Should I rent one, or can I put a photo of my cactus instead?How about you just post pictures of where you live? I think that would be almost as good as cat and dog pictures!
Jearl Rugh asked:
However, would pictures the free range deer, including lovely photos of the cutest fawns—the ones that keep my lawn moved—be sufficient?Yes!
Dena Pawling's comment here:
>>Your physical addresshelped me figure out that I need to revise the order of the items in the handout!
>>But you don't need ALL of them.
>>List ONLY the ones you want an agent to see.
I have to clean my house? I'm doomed. I woke up this morning to find my kitchen floor flooded. The day before Thanksgiving............
Also, sorry about the kitchen floor. I always remember my mom saying that if you want to find out if the septic tank needs work, have 24 people invited for Thanksgiving. The tank is sure back up right in the middle of dinner.
Later update from Dena Pawling:
Thanks for all the well wishes. My kitchen floor turned out to be -- the reservoir of my water filter thingy overflowed. I realize that's a highly scientific definition. Sorry. Anyway, messy but not major, thankfully.John Frain asked:
Okay, after reading a post like this and a link like THAT (!), it's still not proper to send a bottle of top shelf to FinePrint?
No. No gifts. No no no. I appreciate your inclination to say think you in a measurable way but honestly, please no. Even good stuff like liquor and choccies, and cookies are really better off not coming here.
Dave Rudden asked:
I have self-published two shorter books, but I am considering sending out query letters for different novel. Is it going to hurt my chances of finding an agent when they see that I am promoting my self-published books?Just make sure that your query letter says you've self-published two short novels. The only time it's a problem for me is when I'm stalking a writer that I think is a debut novelist only to find out there is a bunch of work already for sale. Consistent information is best.
Thursday was Thanksgiving, so the blog post was just a selfie with blog readers
(and that pic is seriously freaking me out. WHAT'S BEHIND THE SHARK?)That's Barbara Poelle, of course!
There were many comments from readers who are thankful for this blog and the community that has grown up around it. I'm absolutely convinced that the value of this blog is indeed the comment trail. I always laugh when I see someone moaning "don't read the comments, don't read the comments" about some site or another. Here, you MUST read the comments…and it's actually safe to do so. That's a huge community accomplishment!
John Frain said:
Gotta give huge thanks to the Queen and the Reiders here. What a joy to look forward to meeting up every day. Remember the book "Third Places" (I hope I have the title right!). This is my Third Place.I think the book is called Celebrating the Third Place by Ray Oldenburg
Friday we discussed whether agents are less inclined to sign writers of advanced years:
Sherry Howard had a good point in her comment:
So, Janet, I appreciate your words of wisdom and honesty here. I'd never mention those things in a query, but I use my current picture on social media. Honestly, I've considered taking down my white-headed pictures before I query. But, hey, who wants an agent who doesn't want them?
That's an interesting conundrum. I'd vote for taking it down. The reason isn't cause you want to lie or obfuscate. I think a lot of young people don't realize they discriminate against older people. It's something you don't see until it happens to you. I'd vote for letting an agent fall in love with your work before anything else.
And if you are a writer, and you are using your current picture on social media, please for the love of godiva, get a GOOD professional shot or at a least a good FUN shot. The number of really terrible headshots I've seen (on the dust jackets of self-published books a lot!) is staggering.
Joan Kane Nichols has a very good question here:
As others have said, Janet, you've answered the question graciously. But here are my practical concerns.
I've been published, have won awards, teach a writing class, so I'm no old newbie (there's an oxymoron for you). I don't mention my age in queries, but as you've often pointed out, agents google writers whose queries they like. A surf through the web will find enough to figure out my age. So that worries me.
Also--conferences. I've several times seen an agent's expression subtly shift as I approach to make my pitch, making me feel I'm written off before I get a chance to dazzle.
So I wonder--should I slip on my cloak of invisibility, scrub myself from the web (if I can), shun conferences?
It bugs me to think I have to.
It bugs me too. And I don't think you should. But I think we all need to recognize that age IS a barrier. My beloved Richard Gilbert is my ONLY client north of 60. That would seem to indicate that it's harder to get my attention if you're over 40 than I would like to think.
Like anyone facing a barrier, I think the way ahead is simply to keep at it. Write great work.
On Saturday we talked about what are known as grief memoirs and how hard it can be for them to find an audience in general trade publishing
I think all of us paused when we read Susan Bonifant's elegant comment:
Grief is a python that will kill you so slowly you don't know you're dying. A writer who is sharing heartbreak may not know they are really just trying to survive.I'm pretty sure I'll be quoting that in emails to writers in the future.
Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli mentioned a book:
Missing by Lindsay Harrison sticks in my mind because her voice is unforgettable. I couldn't finish it because it was very tragic.
I looked it up and realized instantly it was not a book I'd ever be able to read. Which is a really good reminder that if Lindsay Harrison had queried me, I would have passed, and this book is clearly well-written and evocative (Scribner doesn't publish junk, no sirreeebob.) Not all books, even well-written books are for every agent.
Colin Smith mentioned something important here as well:
One last point--when I was researching my Teenage Alien in Victorian London novel, I looked particularly for things written in late Victorian London that would give me a flavor of what daily life was like. Doing that kind of research really gives you an appreciation for the value of memoir. It also makes me wonder if maybe those stories that aren't broadly marketable today may actually increase in value years down the road. People may not be interested in your story of struggle and survival today, but in 100 years, historians and researchers might enjoy reading how people in the early 21st century dealt with personal tragedies and hardships.
The lack of what had been the backbone of archival research -letters- in a hundred years will mean that these self-published books will be VERY important. It will be one of the only ways historians will know what life in our time was like.
The sheer volume of email archives will render them close to useless. I don't even want to think about whether computers in the future will even be able to read the software of today. (Think of how hard it is to find a cassette tape player these days! Or an 8-track!)
Actual printed books will survive software upgrades nicely; and be a much more reasonable amount of information** to look at.
**I took a look through my email archives when I was thinking about this yesterday: I've sent about 11,000 emails so far in 2015. I receive about 1800 emails a month. That's about 2800 emails in and out in the course of one month. And while I like to think of myself as the center of the known universe, I'll bet you one Big Bang Theory cookie that a lot of people with public careers gets ten times that volume. Imagine sorting through that for hidden details. One of the insidious things about historical research is you often don't know what you're looking for till you see it, and worse, you often don't know what you don't have until you see everything you do have.
Too much information can be a problem as serious for a historian as no information!
A.J. Cattapan's comment shows the value of self-publishing for memoirs like these:
This is also why my cousin ended up self-publishing her cancer-survivor memoir. It didn't quite have a broad enough appeal to catch the attention of a traditional press, so she's self-published it. Because she also sells handmade scarves to raise money for cancer research, she is able to sell her memoir and her scarves to her target audience. During her many craft fairs, she meets up with lots of cancer survivors who are interested in how she endured "childhood leukemia" and a stroke as a young mother of three children. So while she may not be raking in the dough, she is reaching her audience and her story is having an impact.
Sometimes I wonder if there's a place for me in the world the way it is now. I prefer to lift up rather than tear down, to laugh rather than cry, to make something happen rather than play victim. So much of what's out there is angry, depressing, depraved, violent. That's not me.Oh my god, yes there is! Never doubt that for a second! In the throes of despair, the last thing I'm going to read is something dark! That's when I reach for my favorite cozy mystery writers, and even for my beloved Agatha Christie or Dick Francis. I may rep and sell dark fiction, but I'm the last person who would say there's not a place for light fiction as well. It's saved my life more than once. And as recently as two weeks ago
My style these days is "Yes, the world sometimes sucks but here's what's good about it, too."
Hope there's a market for that.
I think CarolynnWith2Ns hit it right on the head here:
The columns which receive the most mail always, and I mean always, are the ones which allow the reader to dip into their own well. It's about me and yet it never is. It's always about them.
I hope all of you had a refreshing break this week and are ready for the onset of the holiday season. Start making your list of books that knocked your sox off in 2015! We'll certainly be talking about them in time for Christmas shoppers to benefit!
This week's subheader noms:
(1) It's nice to finally find a place where you feel like you belong--or, at least, where you can set aside your writing woes, learn a little (or a lot), and know you're welcomed with threats of exile and kale juice.--Susan
(2) patience isn't just a virtue when you query, it's a necessary survival skill--Lucie Witt
(3) Any dead weight can tug a heart down, but it takes magic to make it soar.--Julie M. Weathers
(4) My dragon ate my comment--Julie M. Weathers
(5) Grief is a python that will kill you so slowly you don't know you're dying. A writer who is sharing heartbreak may not know they are really just trying to survive. --Susan Bonifant