I'm really sorry the WIR isn't on Goodreads because this review of last week's WIR by SiSi made my day:
It's got everything a great read needs. We have suspense (will Amy beat her brother home?) and mystery(who set Janet on fire?). It makes us laugh (hell is first person present tense! Colin's flash-comment! Etc.) and tugs our heartstrings (2Ns experience with Dear Sugar). There's a touch of horror (the image of Barbara Poelle unhinging get her jaw for cheese products will likely haunt my dreams tonight). There are plot twists galore as we careen from day to day and plenty of fascinating characters to keep us interested.
I gave it 5 stars before I read it. Now I give it all the stars in the sky!
nightsmusic just cracked me up with this:
I bought my sister-in-law a Nook Glowlite reader last year. It's still in the box. It makes me incredibly sad. So I had a great idea for her this year but alas, Amazon does not sell 50 pound bags of coal :( Which is very strange because they sell everything else.
and Colin and kdjames using italics for stealth mode cracked me up twice:
I am well aware of Poelle's excellent reputation. But she just seems so . . . nice. I mean, have you seen her agent photo? But now, knowing she's a Minnesotan, I can tell her smile is hiding the ability to terrify clients into meeting deadlines by threatening them with jello/whipped cream/tater tot salad. A good quality in an agent, right up there with chomping, and not to be taken lightly.
And filed under "You know you're not in New York City" is this from Janice L. Grinyer:
My husband was in the woods when he met a young couple from Vermont traveling across the US; not only traveling but living in their car. "There is a storm coming, would you like to stay with us at our home until it passes?" Needless to say, it has been a fun four days getting to know this couple, and the adventures they have had (worldwide adventures!) Once the sky cleared, they were on their way again, and we had one day off until the next wave of guests. So many stories, so much laughter; all good.
Clearly I've read too many crime novels to be a good person cause I would NOT have done this.
But on to more serious questions!
In last week's WIR Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli asked
I wondered is it possible for a book to have too much voice? It's often hard for me to get into an author's voice, especially if I love the book I just finished. I flip all over the reading spectrum. It seems some books follow trends to an extreme and it's hard for me to wrap my brain around (I hate that expression, but it fits) YA does this to me. I need to read a good old 3rd person past tense voice that is plot heavy to reset my mind. Right now I'm reading The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer and I keep asking myself why I keep reading. It feels like a giant narrated character development, the antithesis to 1st person present.
Dena Pawling contributed to the question too:
I read a book a few years ago that I loved one of the characters so much I had to stop writing my WIP and work on another ms for several months, because that character's voice crept in to my own writing of my own character of similar age, and the voice was entirely wrong for my character. That was the first YA book I ever read and got me to start reading more YA.
That's an interesting question. I've only thought of this in terms of good/bad writing. When I can't read something I think it's bad writing. That might be too facile an approach though.
I do know that after I read The Liar's Club by Mary Karr I had to stop reading for a week because everything seemed like a dirt-filled pond after reading her clear stream of freshwater prose.
Some of my clients stop reading fiction when they are in the middle of a novel so as to keep their own voice clear in their heads.
I'm not sure if that means other novels have too much voice, or just very compelling voices.
On Monday the topic was agents who do a very limited submission and then kick the client to the curb if the book doesn't sell.
Dena Pawling asked about my comment about "one more time at bat."
This line is scary -
>>Take some time and really think about what you want, cause you've got one more time at bat most likely.
Having two previous agents means you only have one more chance at an agent? Having one previous ms unsold means you have only one more chance at submitting to larger publishers? Having one previous ms unsold means you only have one more chance to sell another ms to ANY publisher?
This would definitely seem to discourage a writer from writing an off-beat ms.
I'm not sure exactly what it means, but it makes indie and/or self-publishing look like a much friendlier option.
When I get a query from a writer who has had three different agents in a short period of time, I'm ALWAYS leery. I ask the prospect about this in detail: what didn't work with their previous agents, what they're seeking now, etc.
It's one thing if an agent dies, or retires. Authors have no control over that. A situation like that in the blog post with the questioner is also less cause for concern. But a writer who has "communication problems" with three agents, or "my agent didn't like my next work" with three agents, well, my first thought isn't that the agent was difficult.
This is ENTIRELY subjective of course. You can't change who you are or how you work with people every time you change agents. Not all agents and writers make good teams.
I do know however that this is one thing all agents are leery of: a writer who's had several agents come's a'querying. ALL of us ask more than the usual questions here.
Jennifer R. Donohue asked:
Obviously, we writers don't want to abandon novels, especially not novels we wrote to the queried-agents-and-signed-one-on-its-basis step. So say OP writes another novel, shops new agents, some of whom rejected him/her for Offbeat Novel. Say one signs New Novel. They still probably won't want Offbeat Novel, correct? Or is that one of those "now that we're in contract together, we can devote the time to making Offbeat Novel something more salable" sort of things?
Colin Smith had a pretty good reply:
Jennifer: If you don't mind, I'm going to have a stab at this because it'll be fun to see if I'm right. Kinda like a "how much have you learned about publishing this year?" test. :) Bear in mind, I'm not an agent. I just play one in the comments. :D
So, you've written Novel A, and it has been rejected by every agent under the sun, including Agent Q. You write Novel B, and this stirs more interest. You get offers of rep, even from Agent Q. You love the way Agent Q signs her name, so you go with her. Agent Q says to you, "What else have you got?" at which you remind her about Novel A. Is Agent Q willing to invest the time to make it saleable? I think Agent Q will say either:
1) No--I turned it down because I don't think I can sell it. And that hasn't changed. Maybe in a few years there might be a place for something like this. But right now, keep writing new stuff.
2) Perhaps, but let's see how we do with Novel B first. If it makes you a hot commodity, then we can take another look at Novel A.
Chances are 1 is most likely.
That's my answer. How'd I do, All-Wise Sharksomeness? :)
Pretty well. Much of course depends on the novel and the agent, so this is not some sort of written in stone policy.
And Dave Rudden said it best:
What I have learned: Life doesn't always work out the way we plan, but it does seem to work out as long as you keep pushing forward. We just may need to take a few detours from time to time.
Tony Clavelli's comment here gave me an idea:
I wish a set of tags existed that agents could give themselves, sneak them in like post-nominal letters. This way you'd see it right there on the bio: Superagent, PNoD (for "publishes now or drops you") or Janet Reid, RFT (represents with ferocity and tenacity).
On the chance I find an agent for nextbook, I'd like one of the agent-for-life who would want my next book because they believe in the writing and the writer, rather than a quick try and then I'm gone if we don't get rich right away. I guess I'd find that out upon the offer, but I'm always a fan of extreme directness. OP's PNoD agent wasn't misleading, but it'd still be nice to know before that whiff of possibility came along and he took the gamble.
I'm updating my website (it's not done yet so don't skedaddle over to see the new paint job) and one of the things I'm adding is a bio that says pretty much just that: I expect to work with you over the course of your career, not book by book.
On Tuesday we talked about writing about the US from a perch outside the country
Steve Stubbs asked about my example:
Great post. One question: when I lived in Manhattan I used to go east on Central Park South, but I never did go south on Central Park East. I know there was a storm there a few years ago. Did it turn the island 90 degrees?
No. If you've got Felix Buttonweezer running south on Central Park East, you've got the street name wrong. There is no Central Park East. It's called Fifth Avenue.
Buildings on the east side, Central Park on the west side of 5th Ave.
Lucie Witt said:
I'd second the importance of finding great U.S. readers for OP. Even just the immigration themes bring up important language choices. For example, I have a friend who is an attorney for a Refugee Ministry program. She would sooner cut off her pinkie toe than refer to someone as "illegal." My conservative grandparents, on the other hand, would not be okay with the "PC" language of "undocumented."
Diction (word choice) is such a great way to indicate character. Who among us would not recognize a Julie M. Weathers comment simply by the words she uses?
This is one of the things that makes reading requested manuscripts trickier than it sounds: is the "wrong" grammar in a character's dialogue on purpose? I've stopped assuming writers make mistakes until there are too many of them to be intentional.
And Emi PdeS cracked me up with this:
I've been living here for almost two decades now, and can enjoy the idioms and voices now, but I won't tell you the story about how I learned the difference between "knocked out," "knocked down," and "knocked up."
I really liked what brianrschawarz said:
If your book is done, all the above advice is just fantastic. These people are very clever. You should listen to them early and often.But if your book isn't done yet, forget all that nonsense about location and beta readers and properly oriented streets. Focus on the plot. More than anything - write a story that makes sailors swoon. Then worry about beta readers.
I suppose the reason I say this is because I've found myself wondering about the wrong things at the wrong times often in my own writing, and at those times I wish someone would slap me in the face. I get preoccupied with which agents would like my book before I pen the first line. Or I tinker with the plot of my second book in a series before the first book is done.
There's the horse. Then the cart. And then I'm a few miles up the road on foot.
I just wanted to mention this in case you needed to hear it. :) If not, carry on and ignore me! :)
For the commenters who suggested the questioner publish under a pseudonym in her own country, here's what she wrote to me after the blog post was published:
Just to share, tonight the Senate passed a controversial "security" bill that hands absolute power to the Prime Minister, Home Minister and Inspector-General of Police to declare martial law, institute curfews, evict people from their homes and conduct search and seizures without warrants. All they will need is a "legitimate security threat" (which can mean members of the opposition who ask too many questions), and if members of the public are injured or killed in the process there is no legal recourse for us.
We have never had a terrorist attack on our soil in the history of this nation, ever, so this is more about holding on to power than anything else.
I love my country and I am very sad today. Going to write the feelings away.
Which is a just a reminder to us all that no matter what our politics, we are very fortunate to live and work here. And that freedom is worth defending.
On Wednesday we talked about your suggestions for craftbooks prompted by my post on Spellbinding Sentences
It's a really terrific list and I updated it with thesuggestions you added in the comments here.
I really liked what CynthiaMc said
I am taking a master class with Stephen King (On Writing). Turns out my preferred way of writing is also his (who knew?). I realized that the very moment I stopped writing was when it stopped being fun and started being all about "do this, don't do that, this is marketable, that isn't." That may work for some people. Not for me. I was afraid I was done as a writer. It was as though Stephen King was sitting across from me saying "We're not like them. We do what works for us."
Somewhere along the line I stopped doing what worked for me and started worrying about what other people said I should be doing.
Today I go back to the old way. Today writing is fun again.
Thanks, Stephen. I needed that.
And a real highlight was a drive-by visit by one of my favorite authors Lawrence Block:
Autocorrect notwithstanding, I'm pleased at the thought that my books are worth reading—and pleased at the mention of Writing the Novel, which I've updated and expanded to half again its original length. After all, much has changed since its 1978 publication! It's now been reborn as WRITING THE NOVEL FROM PLOT TO PRINT TO PIXEL, available for preorder prior to its January 4 pub date.
And it looks like Craig is headed for Carkoon:
An incredible list, thank you. Though I am not really asking for you to do more work I was wondering if I could make a suggestion? Would you be so kind as to build a new category of blog post around this?
Perhaps something like author assets to go right under author asshats.
If someone wants to go through all 3000+ posts to identify which ones should be labeled "author assets" go right ahead.
I, however, will NOT be doing that.
On Thursday the topic was requested revisions the author felt would weaken the book:
I'm a little curious--how common is it for agents to actually TELL potential clients, "I didn't read it, but here's what my intern thought"?
I don't know. I've had interns read requested manuscripts. In fact, it was the incredibly talented and now very successful Joanna Volpe who identified the brilliance that is Gary Corby. I'd read the query and pages, thought it was good, and asked Joanna to take a look because she's 1. brilliant 2. liked the time period. The rest, as they say, is history.
I've had interns read manuscripts because I'd read them too many times to have fresh eyes on a new revision.
I've had interns read things to make sure the plot holds together before I invest six-ten hours in reading.
Interns are an integral part of the business. If you don't want interns or assistants reading your work, you need to find a different industry. It happens ALL the time. That said, the caliber of intern varies. I have had consistently great interns and assistants. Other agents may not have.
Sherry Howard had a good insight on the question of how readers see manuscripts:
I'm in several critique groups. You learn that most people who write and read make great suggestions for improving your writing. Then, there are those other few who see the world through a different lens. Maybe this reader is a different lens person. Sometimes they're way off, and sometimes they see things we don't see and should.
Speaking of which... do we have a release date for THE SINGER FROM MEMPHIS yet, O Mighty QOTKU? :)
Why yes, yes we do: May 17, 2016.
And here's the cover.
Thanks for asking!
Friday and Saturday were holidays and we spent the comment column sending each other good wishes. It was really lovely to hear from so many of you about how much you like the community here. Thank you!
Whoever invented autocorrect is going straight to hell in first person present tense - and I sincerely hope I am not there to greet them. --CynthiaMc
Writers are the best damn people, and you're all the best of the bunch.--Susan
"Your struggles define your achievements." --MeganV's mom