Sunday, November 08, 2015

Week in Review 11/8/15

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*

 Cause I kept adding things and moving things around and just forgot to renumber.   Just to drive you crazy.

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

Lance 8:27am

LynnRodz asked:
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
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.

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.

Jenz asked:
"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 ?
She’ll answer.

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


Colin Smith said...

Wow--I didn't even notice Hank Phillipi Ryan actually commented! Of course, one day people will look back at these comments and be astounded at how many successful published authors graced these pages in their pre-published days, or early in their publishing career. Yes, I'm looking at YOU! :)

A lovely WiR--both of them--Janet. Glad you're back safe and sound, and settling in for a wonderful Fall/Winter of reading and woodland creature baiting. :D

Amy Schaefer said...

Don't even talk to me about O'Hare. An evil airline has cancelled a leg of my December flights home and is now routing us through Chicago. Absolutely no way am I going to make it home in time for Christmas now. It would probably be faster for me to walk from the previous stop.

And a wonderful WIR, as usual. I'm going to second Adib Khorram's comment about this being such a great group.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Yup, sane, nice and the wackiest bunch of yahoo's with words coming from the tips of their fingers.

Rest your weary shark-cartridge and get caught up. Tormenting takes strength.
Long live the WIR.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Adib speaks the truth. This is a wickedly wonderful bunch. Amusing, informative, supportive, and inspirational.

Great WIR. Thanks, Janet for sharing so much of your time and expertise with us. And to all the delightful woodland creatures that haunt these here woods, you are all such a delight. What wonderful voices you all have.

BJ Muntain said...

Thanks again for a great WiR.

And Adib is certainly correct. We are pretty nice. And most of us are sane, although I have to try to rein in the crazy while I'm here...

And did folks notice? 2Ns Answer to All the Questions was exactly 100 words. She said so herself. I was quite impressed.

Susan said...

Hear, hear! 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.

Wait. One of those things is not like the other...

Glad the conference went well, but Janet, I'm giving you the Husky stink-eye for this:

"Oh you got me. Yes, I'm actually Jonathan Franzen."

There are a thousand jokes I want to make right now and not one of them is appropriate.

Megan V said...

Thanks again for the WIR!
About the pitch sessions, I think knowing when a novel is ready is the hardest part. You can revise, edit, utilize beta readers and critique partners, revise again, sob over a snifter of whiskey, and still learn the hard way that your book isn't ready. But if you're at a conference pitch session and know your novel isn't ready, why not tell the agents and/or wait to pitch it? I mean I have a thriller I'd LOVE to pitch, but it is currently a first draft. And good things come to those who wait!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

BJ, you noticed. Thanks. That was nice.

Anonymous said...

"Oh you got me. Yes, I'm actually Jonathan Franzen."

This just solidifies my intention to someday send you a query addressed, "Dear Snookums."

Well said, Adib. We'll just have to agree that writers have their own definition of sane.

Janet Reid said...

ok youse guyz, I just read the contest entries, and I gotta say: there's some talent out there in Commentville.

and Susan? Inappropriate jokes are the BEST kind.

Dave Rudden said...

Every week I try to write something for the contest and every week I go way over the 100 word limit. However, I do love reading what others come up with.

Megan V said...

QOTKU—Preach! I'm in love with a couple of this week's entries. So much so I considered dropping everything and cooking their authors some good ole Midwestern Casseroles and Strawberry Rhubarb Pie.

Lance said...

Great WIR! You used the contraction y'all as well as youse guyz in the same post. Fantastic. All the time that you spend on this blog is amazing and wonderful. We appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

I totally sympathise with disliking flying. I was diagnosed with Meniere's Disease last year (a vestibular disorder), and now every time I fly, there's a VERY good chance that I'll spend one or all of the flights throwing up continuously.


At least when I'm sick at home I have my little chuck-bucket and a comfortable chair. On a 'plane all I have are my sickbags (SO MANY SICKBAGS) and a very uncomfortable seat.

I still travel. I must be crazy.

BJ Muntain said...

WR: You are so stalwart! (I was going to say 'brave and stalwart', then realized that would be redundant.) To still travel, despite that disorder, despite the illness. You're not crazy. You know what you have to do, and you're going to do it, no matter what. I try to write stories about people like that, because those are the people who are most admired.

I tip my hat to you.

Craig said...

I am very glad I could make you smile Illustrious One. Thank you for both WIR pieces. I do hope you had fun at the CrimeBake and came back recharged.

Before Allegient Airlines I used to have to go through O'hare and take a bus or rent a car to Wisconsin. I might have to do that again now that their planes are suffering from a lack of attention.

LynnRodz said...

Once again, another great WIR—thanks Janet!

Btw, when does Stephen G. Parks get here? We need limes!

Congrats, Adib, for the subheader!

And speaking of entries this week, there were a couple that I thought were more than fantastic! Megan V wanted to bake them pies, while I wanted to throw my soufflés in the trash. Oh well.

Susan, Jonathan Franzen did not conjure up any jokes my way, so I agree with Janet, I want to hear yours.

(Okay, I used up my quota of exclamation points.)

John Frain said...


Excellent recap. Spot on. But I'm troubled by one small piece. You're not attending ANY conferences next year? Is that a set-in-stone kinda thing or something you're bouncing around in your mind? Somebody, I mean, like, a friend, was thinking they might stalk you and try to show up at the right conference next year.

Meanwhile, Adib, great line for the header and I look forward to one day hearing from the sane people who follow the blog. I bet they'll be interesting.

I love it here. Feels like a virtual Cheers.

Janice L. Grinyer said...

Yay! WIR! Like I said before, a recap that you can easily refer back to is the best kind... very well written.

Of course the Agent that I love to read each day has chosen 2016 to be her stay at home year... probably because I already have a 2016 conference list made up and will be choosing two... And I have not been to a writers conference ever. No Shark stalking for me...


And yes; reading the contest stories are my weekend highlight! I even find myself reading them twice so I can do my "I see what you did there!" woodland creature face... :P

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I do like reading folks' good news here, and look forward to hopefully sharing more of my own in the future (pending queries, I'm lookin' at you....)

There were some sox-knockers in the flash contest this week, some of which made me pause and actually say "wow" and read them again.

My own very different from the first idea I started with. That other nugget, it refused to be a 100 word story and in fact may have finally gelled what I wanted to do with my Untitled Space Novel. But, NaNoWriMo looks to be not transpiring for me this year (lost half of October to rebellious organs), so we'll see when that happens. But I wanted to put something in the contest, I've missed the last few!

Calorie Bombshell said...

Janet - I am honored to have won your Query Letter Quiz! Was feeling quite low given the grievous error I made on my contest entry this week. I mean how could I have deleted the "r" from "scruff"? Lesson learned - must not swill vodka martinis and binge watch episodes of The Strain while composing flash fiction.

CynthiaMc said...

The last time I was on a plane was from Tokyo to San Francisco to Birmingham (2 days, horrid time change, no rest) with a 3-year-old and a 4-year-old. The last time before that was Panama City to St. Louis to Seattle to Tokyo with a 2-year-old and a baby with an ear infection. I don't care if I ever get on a plane again. That was almost 30 years ago and I'm not over it yet.

You know what? I wrote about it and entered it the Erma Bombeck contest (I love Erma) a few years ago and got some very nice comments from the judge. Why am I sitting on this? I should send it out. I just have to find it first...

CynthiaMc said...

And there was the time we flew on a C-130 to Korea for a shopping trip, the co-pilot borrowed the kids' 5 foot tall stuffed bear, pinned a set of wings on it and said Papa Bear flew better than the pilot. Good times.

Marc P said...

I've had my head in a box recently taking the P out of a WIP. And getting to the END word. Great to catch up.. I see new comment rules mentioned can Colin do me a super link to this post (Plese) as I can't find it. And lovely to read all the good natured comments here as usual and suer writing!!

Janet Reid said...

Marc, the guidelines for comments pop up when you start to write a comment.

They are:
Keep your comments succinct. Any comment that runs longer than 100 words is generally too long.

If you're commenting more than three times a day, it's too much.

Civility is enforced. Spelling/grammar mistakes may be pointed out ONLY in the blog post itself, not in any of the ensuing commenter's contributions.

Anonymous said...

Great WIR as usual. I think my internal clock must be off. I missed it when it first posted.

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 think people pitch even though they know they aren't ready to submit. When you register for Surrey, you have to choose a pitch session and a blue pencil. I listened to umpteen of these conversations at Surrey. "I've got a pitch appointment, but my book isn't done. I think I'll keep it just to get practice pitching and pick the agent's brain." I think the majority of the B&W group had unfinished novels and most of them pitched for one reason or another.

Let's face it, many people probably want that impetus of an agent waiting for their book so they need to soldier on and finish it. Besides, it makes excellent fodder in the writing chats at the coffee shop. It's like a peasant finding a broken sword after a battle. It's not really worth anything because it isn't complete, but to peasants who don't have even a broken sword, it's impressive.

Who knows? Lightning might strike and agents really get excited about an unfinished work. We had that happen in Idol to one of our crew. Besides, you miss 100% of the opportunities you don't take.

Jenz said...

On why writers end up not submitting after getting a request at a conference, Janet said, "I don't know if that's cause they learned so much at the conference they needed to revise..."

I'd bet being forced to eat kale that is exactly what happens. The first conference I attended was a real eye opener. You think you've done your research. You think your manuscript is ready. Then you get to the conference. You go to panels and listen to experts. And you talk to other writers and hear their AMAZING PITCHES. Then you look back at your own work and wonder how you could be so foolish.

The next step is to get back to work applying what you learned. That may be the hardest and most important one.

DLM said...

A chunky quote AND a pink cow graphic. My pre-grade travails shall live on.

That story, by the way, is 100% grass-fed brown-and-white-spotted truth. Especially the part about being raised literalist. The number of full-Nelsons I endured at the hands of my ultra-orthodox big brother ... yipes!

Gossamer, by the way, is NOT jealous of that damn cow, he says. Of course, he says this while flipping his tail violently, and perusing Acela runs to NYC on his dumbphone. I am not persuaded.

Hooray, Adib and E.M.G. and Calorie Bombshell! Thou all rockest mightily with thy bad selves.

Delta Airlines may have made the best inappropriate sick joke ever. Literally ... (W.R., I feel your pain. I do not fly well at all.

Marc P said...

Thanks JR !

Brigid said...

QOTKU, would it ever be helpful to do a beta reader match up here? I am a lurker but I've been doggy-paddling in these waters since '08, and I love the engaged commentariat here.

I'm envisioning something along the lines of several posts going live at once, with comment threads for different categories. "Comment on this post if you're looking for beta readers for YA novels" and "This is the thread for those writing mysteries and thrillers", with the commenters then being able to sort for themselves between literary-werebadger-urban-fantasy YA and commercial-historical-fiction-about-plants YA.

It may be unfeasible, and it may also be outside the realm of what you want to be involved with. But I figured it couldn't hurt to ask. Unless I get sharkbitten. Think thick-skinned thoughts...

Adib Khorram said...

You all will have to imagine the scene, because I have access to confetti cannons at work and we have a spare CO2 tank lying around...

In all seriousness, though, I'm humbled to be part of this community. Thanks to everyone for being so cool and to Janet for attracting such an excellent people group.

Today, I had to select pictures of ice cream.


DLM said...

Brigid, you might try following some of the blogs and commenting, developing a relationship that way and then moving into "would you like to be/do you need a beta reader" territory. I've taken some of the acquaintanceships here further toward friendships in this way; and there are some great blogs to enjoy, from some of the commentariat.


xnye said...

There is something very heady about being the walking manifestation of all the Sharks NO NOs.
Go on pitch the only 50 unedited pages you have written, what could happen? And to think someone said "it will take you a year......."
Writing is not for amateurs and yet that is exactly what the professional were.

Kaitlyn Sage Patterson said...

As a long-time reader and sometimes commenter, I thought I'd share my happy news.

Yesterday I signed with Brent Taylor at TriadaUS for my YA Fantasy. I couldn't possibly be more grateful for the wonderful advice I got on this blog and Query Shark.

And now I'll go back to jumping up and now and squealing and scaring my dog.

DLM said...

Gosh, Kaitlyn, WAY TO GO!!!!

Goss has definitely shanken his little furry head in despair over my commitment more than once, saying to Janet over drinks, "If that broad ever gets published, it'll only be because she paid attention to you."

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Kaitlyn, way to go! It's always fabulous news when one of the Reiders finds success. Congratulations! So happy for you!

DLM said...

I forgot to scritch the poor dog.

*Scritch scritch* There there, momma'll be awright soon, and there'll be treats in it for ya kiddo. *Scritch some more*

Calorie Bombshell said...

Kaitlyn - Woot! Woot! Congrats on wonderful news!