Welcome to the week that was.
In last week's WIR:
Susan Bonifant wanted to clear up a point from a comment last week about her investment banker giving her a referral to an agent who was also a client:
Correction: My investment friend mentioned me to the agent, but didn't send the book. I sent the book (along with a cover letter that still makes me wince). Agent rejected me few days later.
Probably not necessary to clarify, but I don't want to be the cause of any unnecessary fin twitching.
Kae Ridwyn mentioned the very low stats on fulls actually sent after conference requests:
Also incredible: the statistic of 'less than 50% send manuscripts after you'd requested them' - that's just so dumb my brain seriously stopped for several minutes and I couldn't work out how to type any more. Why? Why? Why??!!!
Having just come from CrimeBake, I can't tell you the number of writers who said "I got X or X+N number of requests for a full but I'm not ready to send."
I don't know if that's cause they learned so much at the conference they needed to revise, or they pitched a novel they knew wasn't ready.
All this does is underscore to me that pitching at a conference is a useless tool in writer torment.
And kdjames mentioned my numbering system in the flash fiction contest rules:
OK, no one else asked so I will: I understand the addition of #9 in the flash fiction contest, though I have a hard time believing someone would ask you to do that, but why are there two #5 and two #8? This is seriously messing with the OCD bookkeeper/math part of my brain. *death glare*
And then on Thursday was delighted to see I've mended my errant ways:
The numbers for the contest rules are no longer unruly! YES.
And as if that's not enough, Janet just posted a very long (and excellent) post over at QueryShark and it's full of items with numbers and letters and they're all in order.
My little OCD brain is just all aquiver with admiration and gratitude. And my wild and wicked imagination is rolling its eyes at me.
And Stephen G Parks decided to join Colin and LynnRodz:
Janet - regarding the new commenting rules...
Some other sites occasionally have "open threads" where the commenters are free to range to any topic they wish. Have you considered doing something like that so us woodland creatures can vent our unfiltered angst/kale recipes to each other? It might help keep us on topic in other threads
No. And I say again sir, NO.
The last thing I want to be responsible for is more kale recipes in this world. Or your unfiltered anything.
The place for that stuff is your own blog.
I don't mind some minor straying but it needs to be within hailing distance of the actual topic. Y'all are smart people. You know when you're going too far. I trust you to manage yourselves.
On Monday the contest results have determined that Colin and LynnRodz have been re-exiled to:
Literary Agents' Cross-Dimensional Construct for Information: LAX
Janet, are you sure you're not a famous author using a pseudonym for your agent gig? Hmm, I'm beginning to wonder.
Oh you got me. Yes, I'm actually Jonathan Franzen.
And our contest winner Michael Seese gave us a rundown on how the entry went from "not quite a story" to "story"
First, thanks to Janet for picking it.
Second, thanks to everyone for your kind comments. FWIW, my money was on E. M. Goldsmith. I agree with Janet... "speechless."
Since this a community, I thought I'd share my thoughts as to why it wasn't "not quite a story," because originally it was not.
The first draft opened with "An empty snack bag of potato chips" then proceeded to list the items. A notebook... A shoe...
Note the absence of the "and" at the beginning.
Likewise, the final paragraph began, "The scattered remains..."
I knew it wasn't a story because there was no unifying element. Then I came up with the can. (Incidentally, if it's not obvious from the "negative space," the can was an empty beer can the kid had been drinking while driving.)
Now I had a beginning (the can in motion), a middle (it rolls past the items, now connected by "and"), and an ending (silence falls as it comes to rest).
On Tuesday the topic was writing groups;
Vbrown mentioned a group I'd have left in a heartbeat as well:
i joined a writer's group on facebook for a while, but the overall trend of the group was very negative, as in they criticized each other over the tiniest things, never welcomed a different opinion, and heaven forbid the auto-correct on your phone should accidentally spell the wrong word in a post. i had to quit. i like hearing the good news, and i don't want to be picked apart over nonsense.
Given my spelling woes on this blog, I'd probably have been banished before I could quit. That group sounds like a real snake pit. Glad you got out.
Colin Smith said:
BTW, as I understand them, the rules for celebration here are thus: if you just got an agent, or you are able to announce a book deal, then tell us. We want to celebrate with you. I know many of us are anxious to hear good news from a number of the regulars (female bronco riders and Clovis, king of the Franks--need I say more?). Just be resepctful of the topic and all the other code of conduct stuff, like trying to keep comments to 100... words... oops... I'll shut up now. :)
Exactly so. I love hearing about the good things that happen to blog readers. Keep it short and we're all good.
DeadSpiderEye said it very well:
On-line communities, they display the same pattern of observable behaviour found in all social groups. You fell foul to one of the most common mechanisms for exclusion within a social context, that is: arcane repudiation. Under this label, behaviour inconsequential in most contexts, is deemed unacceptable and subject to sanction. The purpose of this mechanism is to create a distinction between the insider and the stranger. You might recognise the concept from your teen years, the period during which this mechanism is most commonly manifest.
Honestly, I might have to change my screen name to "Arcane Repudiation" cause I love the sound of it so much.
and I really liked this from Megan V:
Sometimes the writing journey is like going through middle school again. It makes you feel like an awkward tween who's desperate to be noticed, but terrified of embarrassment.
I mean there are always going to be people who support you, people who snipe at you, and people who pretend to support you while sniping at you. Don't worry about them. Just write.
Ardenwolf had a very pointed observation:
Some people always wish you the best . . . just so long as you don't succeed first.
On Wednesday, the question was from an author who was having less success on querying book two than book one, and wondered if the subject was just "too weird."
I reminded the writer that rejection (or in too many cases just silence) isn't anything but no. don't read more in to it.
Donnaeve pointed out the limits of that answer:
This answer reminds me of what another writer said to me while I was on submission; "Silence doesn't mean yes, and it doesn't mean no. It's just silence."
Which is fine - until you start to chew the tips off your fingers with worry.
Lucie Witt had some good ideas here:
Sounds like this could be a query issue (if you've truly polished your novel)?
Things that have helped my query writing skills:
Read all the query shark archives and take notes.
Have someone who knows nothing about your book crit your query.
If funds allow, take advantage of professional query crits. These can be as low as $15-$25 and sometimes even include first page.
And I like what E.M.Goldsmith had to say as well:
Also, if your book truly is odd, it may take a bit longer to find a home. Some rejections are only about the right fit. Keep at it. Our own Julie Weathers returned from Surrey with the oft forgotten pearl that it may take 100 or more queries to get that one agent. Persevere. You will get there.
And I love odd novels. Cormac McCarthy has made his mark by being odd if not entirely bizarre... And terribly dark.
"I've heard I should be getting comments like "I love this but don't know how to sell it" if it's a niche project, but I've never gotten any of those comments."
Maybe you'll get that. MAYBE. But that sounds a lot like the kind of thing that could invite response or even argument from a writer (couldn't you at least try?).
Now I'm really curious--Janet, would you ever tell a querier something like that?
No. At least not in those words. The reason is that the last thing I need is someone splashing that comment all over Facebook, Twitter, or those query tracking sites: she didn't know how to sell this.
I might say something like "you need an agent who is a better in this category than I am" but I'm probably never going to say I don't know how to do something.
John Frain asked:
I hear a lot of talk about beta readers and crit partners, and I wonder where people find the most success acquiring them. They've been needles in haystacks for me. I'm taking an online course right now where I thought I might find a good beta/critter, but so far no such luck.
Is there a trick to this?
but Rob Ceres had answered the question in an earlier comment:
I found my best critique partner in the comments section of this blog!
And I liked what Sleepy One said here:
Finding a good critique group is sort of like dating. You'll meet some people that will make you want to sneak out of the bathroom window instead of finishing the date. You'll also meet great people you're happy to drink coffee with, but you'll friend zone them.
But then you'll meet a writer or two that you click with and you're never going to want to let them go. But it can take a long time to find the right critique partners. So: don't give up, but don't be afraid to say the critique relationship isn't working for you.
And this is the answer to All The Questions:
Is it the query?
Is it the first few pages?
Is it the novel?
Did my crit partners blow smoke up my skirt?
Does the agent have indigestion?
Did the agent not sleep well the night before?
Did the agent die?
Did my computer deliver my email?
Is the agent’s reply lost in spam?
Did the agent actually read it or was it an intern?
Does the intern have indigestion?
Did the intern stay up late?
Is the intern on drugs?
I need drugs.
I need a good night’s sleep.
I’ll email a question to the Q ?
from CarolynnWith2Ns of course.
On Thursday, I posted a quiz designed to make you all crazy.
Susan's comment cracked me up:
I'm excusing myself because I can't word today.
as did DLM's
In kindergarten, they gave us an aptitude test in which one of the questions was, "If a white cow gives regular milk, and a brown cow gives chocolate milk, does a pink cow give strawberry milk?" I toddled to the front of the room and COULD NOT COMPLETE the question, because I kept trying to explain to the teacher, "There are no pink cows!" and she kept trying to insist I answer the question on its own terms. I could not come to such terms, I was raised literalist.
This quiz has me sitting, paralyzed, in my little orange plastic chair, peering in squinting turns at the purple mimeograph ink before me, and at the teacher, unable to explain to her the quiz is impossible to deal with, and dreaming wistfully of pink cows.
Adib Khorran's compliment made me smile:
A fiendishly devised test indeed.
as did Craig's
Perhaps we have clue here. One that tells us what happens when you sleep within walls painted Razzle Dazzle
And Hank Phillipi Ryan dropped by to make sure we knew:
OH, that was SUCH a trick question.
I do not fold.
ANd the agent will know that.
xoxoxoo and see you soon!
But it's Calorie Bombshell for the win here:
1. B - because "Snookums" is reserved for the managing partner at my law firm
2. B - because "fiction novel" implies those dark, murderous thoughts I commit to paper every night aren't real
3. A - because B is on my six-year-old daughter's 1st grade spelling list
4. A - because serial commas (like killers) scare the living #### out of me
5. A - because the thought of Stephen King reading anything I write scares the living #### out of me
6. Huh? I thought Jaws was with whales...
7. B - because A, quite frankly, well, Va savoir pourquoi!
On Friday, the writing contest commenced.
Results should be up on Monday!
CrimeBake was my last conference for 2015. I'm staying home for the next year after a very busy conference season in 2015. It's not just the travel, although plane trips are increasingly awful, particularly if you don't know to avoid O'Hare like the plague. The number of days out of the office can often mean I'm behind for weeks if not a month after a week long trip (like Bouchercon or Left Coast Crime.) Yes those cons are fun, but the after party ain't no party.
CrimeBake was particularly nice because I met several blog readers. It's always nice to hear how much people like this. And it's not just the posts, it's the comment community that adds real value here!
Which brings us to the subheader this week:
And this blog is the sanest, nicest group I have ever been a part of--Adib Khorram